Julie Thorson

There are plenty of “to dos” in leadership. The lists of what we should and shouldn’t do are never ending. Let’s be honest: The pressure of being a leader may at times seem terrifying and overwhelming.

Some leaders focus only on what they don’t do well, and that can be a dangerous trap. Instead, understanding what you do well and doing more of it seems to be a better road to travel and coach.

I’m a firm believer in Strengths Finder 2.0. It provides us all with great insights on what we do well and how teams can balance each other out. Strengths Finder gives us permission to do more of what we do well.

We find in Strengths Based Leadership there are many needs that must be met by leaders. Gallup research shows followers have four basic needs.

Trust   | Compassion   | Stability |   Hope

The need that I find most interesting and most underserved is hope. We learn in Strengths Based Leadership from Gallup the single most powerful question asked to employees was whether their company’s leadership “feels enthusiastic about the future.”

“When hope is absent people lose confidence, disengage and often feel helpless.” Strengths Based Leadership, pg. 89

The question I keep coming back to is what are we doing as leaders every day to offer hope to our team members? Many of us are in leadership positions because we are great at responding to situations. We have good instincts and good communication skills. We have worked our way into leadership positions because we have demonstrated a strong solid ability to respond. That is all well and good, but as leaders do we spend enough time initiating?

Strengths Based Leadership teaches us an important lesson.

“One of the greatest challenges for leaders is to initiate new efforts that will create subsequent organizational growth, if as a leader, you are not creating hope and helping people see the way forward, chances are no one else is either.” Strengths Based Leadership, pg. 91

That paragraph was a game changer for me. To think what are we doing every day to offer hope to our team members? Are we deliberate about it? Do we challenge those we work with on their own personal development? Do we ask them about their personal plans for the future? Do we dream about and talk about the organization in the future? Do we think about the future in our field of aging services? Or do we spend our days reacting to the problems and situations that arise.

So, my question or challenge to you today is, what have you done to offer hope to your team members? If you are scratching your head and can’t come up with anything, take a pause.  Think about that basic need people, in general, have. It’s our responsibility to find a way to offer hope even when the day’s work challenges become overwhelming.

Hope is needed and offering optimism for the future is your responsivity.

Julie Thorson’s “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. Most recently, she was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and has been a participant in LeadingAge’s Leadership Academy.