Where there is hope, there is fear, and where there is fear, there is hope
When a leader feels uneasy with an employee or a project when s/he gets restless, wants something to change, be it about the environment, others, or themselves, s/he hopes that things could be different. S/he holds a position of lack, of something, is missing to be happy or reach success. From that position, s/he encounters fear of not reaching what s/he hopes for, snapping at any obstacles, shortcomings, or frustration. Pema Chodron, an American Tibetan Buddhist, says, “Hope and fear come from the feeling that we lack something. We hold onto hope, and hope robs us of the present moment.” Now, this introduction might put you in a problem: “Well, if there’s no hope, if I don’t have hope, then what’s the point? What do I have if I don’t have hope?” You have much more. Let’s see how hope and fear affect leadership skills negatively, and what replaces it to support efficiency.
The Dark Side of Hope
Hope is hard-wired in Judeo-Christian culture: we hope for a better destiny through abiding by prayers and holy living. What it teaches us is that we are wicked, unfinished, impotent creatures. We need to do things to earn redemption. We only reach it when we die. All the while, we are incomplete sentient beings. So we hope that by behaving as requested, we will experience joy and fulfillment.
Hope means we are not enough, which leads to frustration. It might have started in our families where our parents wanted us to be better than them, to shine in a better way and reach higher status. Their quest for more has created empty self-esteem, craving for hope to feel one. It is our Ego talking. Our education and culture focus mostly on the Ego, the Me as a King that needs to be on the throne or might be discarded. The Ego is the realm of the superficial, of the disconnected. When you only feed your Ego, you forget how interconnected we are.
In an organization, it is common to encounter leaders with big egos. Somehow it is even praised as a sign of determination and drive. It is a flying volcano, ready to burst at any frustration. Hope leads to pressure. When you want something, you force your way to get it. It becomes difficult to let come, to make the possibilities emerge, to trust. Praising the Ego throughout our lives is like being in awe in front of a wheel without seeing the car attached to it. We are more than our Ego, we all hold the power of the universe in our every cell. We don’t need to do anything to be.
From Fear to Control
When we hope, we cast a frame on reality: it has to fit or else we are in trouble. When we hope for the sales team to sell more, we put pressure, forcing them to check the scoreboard rather than play the game and rely on their skills. Here, we see how important it is to develop skills. The more you are good at what you do, the more you can rely on it.
Organizations set goals because they hope to be better and fear to lose what they have. Because there is only one way, they are afraid of never getting it. It might be a remnant of awareness. Indeed, reducing the infinite resources to only one outcome is kind of stressful. It is like trying to kill a fly by shooting a bullet between its eyes. To avoid feeling the fear, we control. We script what a natural process is. Try to explain to a five-year-old the process of walking, worst, of skiing. The poor child will soon be overwhelmed by images and details. Whereas, just observing and trusting the ability to imitate is far more straightforward, yet it requires a specific skill that the world seems to have lost: trust.
A controlling leader puts pressure. When there is pressure, there is stress. Where there is stress, there is cortisol and a reaction of fight or flight. People under pressure can’t think clearly; their brain shuts down because blood floods in the body parts that will require immediate action like the heart, feet, and lungs. The stress hormones close down the synapses, and people can’t make the connections that define intelligence. They can’t create; they try to survive.
Trust We Are Naturally Intelligent and Creative
So what is there if there is no hope and no fear? There is love. Did I lose you here? What the heck love has to do with leadership? What I call love here is the ability to accept things as they are. They are naturally perfect, intelligent, and creative, as every system on earth. A cell is intelligent in the way that it senses its environment and can adapt to it. The body is smart and creative as it can find ways to communicate a discomfort through lapsus or aches of some sort. Teams are creative and intelligent when they naturally eject a member because the person doesn’t feel s/he fits anymore, or when a country can govern even without government (like in Belgium for hundreds of days).
We are all perfect, and what happens to us is nothing more than ideal too. Stay with me. When you see your team as resourceful and trust its natural capacity to come up with solutions, you lose the pressure. For example, Pete is sick, and you don’t know how the team will manage without him to finalize this month’s production. You could put pressure, barking unattainable quota every day. It might work for a while, but at what cost? The team will experience stress, they will fight to get it done, and if it last, they won’t be able to rest and relax, it will continue until someone breaks. When you choose to trust them because you believe your judgment when hiring them, you can help them see where they have to go, what the finish line looks like, and let emerge any creative ideas. The atmosphere in the team will be positive, exciting even, and the team will go the extra mile to reach the goals. The stress they will have endured will be short and quickly rewarded. It is akin more to a drive than to pressure.
Don’t be afraid of not getting this. Don’t hope to see it work one day. Just be there, wonder at the people around you, let them feel great and perfect, define why they have to work, and trust the system to find the “how.” Bring attention, put energy in the scenario that you want to see happening, like the quantum particle waiting for the energy of the observer to become a wave or a particle. Pressure will create particles, like walls people will crash on. Love will create a wave of possibilities. Accept things as being whole and perfect, stop hoping, start visioning.