Hope: a Leader’s Friend or Foe?

Yet another inspirational article by Judy, MilitarytoCivilian.com’s popular guest writer and resident expert on corporate America…

Judy Navarrete, SPHR, an accomplished HR manager, contacted me at Military Resumes to express her interest in sharing her vast human resources and operations management experience and insight into the business world with military job seekers.  Her observations are food for thought as you reflect on your own military experience (and how it applies to corporate America) when preparing your military resume or for an interview. She draws on her conversations with a poised and well-respected Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, who she has come to know very well, to craft informative lessons of her own. This Staff Sergeant recently deployed to Afghanistan – your thoughts and prayers are appreciated. To see all of Judy’s acclaimed articles, keyword search MilitarytoCivilian.com for “Judy”.


I recently came to the conclusion that it is important for an organization’s leadership to remain hopeful of its future and to convey this hope to others. Recalling conversations with a trusted confidant and true leader, a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, is one of the catalysts that led me to this understanding. On more than one occasion, when I asked him for his opinion on the possible outcomes of future events, he responded with, “I hope… ”.  At the time, I thought to myself, “how could one with such extensive training, wisdom, and mental discipline, possess nothing more than ‘hope’”? To me, “hope” meant uncertainty with a negative connotation. I now know that he wasn’t necessarily uncertain of the future, but rather, our understanding of “hope” differed.

Hope is better interpreted, as the way the Staff Sergeant intended it to be, as optimism. The complete definition of hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to one’s life. Hope is feeling that wants can be had or events will turn out for the best. To better explain the deep philosophical definition of hope, we turn to some well-respected, modern and historical influences. Oprah Winfrey was quoted saying, “I choose to rise up out of that storm and see that in moments of desperation, fear, and helplessness, each of us can be a rainbow of hope, doing what we can to extend ourselves in kindness and race to one another.” Clearly, she sees hope as inspiration, providing assurance to others in an effort to ease their pain. Sri Chimoy, a poet and spiritual teacher, writes, “Hope is man’s preparation for the unknown. Hope is man’s aspiration for the unknowable.” In conclusion, hope is not uncertainty; it’s honest, not misleading. Hope is not a “cop out”; it’s unavoidable, since there is no telling what the future holds. Because man needs to believe in positive outcomes to persevere, hope is inherently optimistic.

In the life of a Staff Sergeant, work, plans, and schedules often change. Marines (and other service members) stand ready to deploy anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. The military prepares its members to be ready for anything, which makes it difficult for them to make definite plans outside of work. For example, what was expected to be a January deployment resulted in an April deployment. What was anticipated to be a trip to the East Coast ended up as a trip to the Northwest. A weekend home with the family was overruled by an extended stay on assignment. My confidant’s common response, “I hope so”, was often followed by, “things change”.  Those with military experience easily adapt to ever-changing circumstances and know that, despite rigorous training and detailed planning, things change. Hope becomes the mechanism by which this incredible adaptability and perseverance, critical to both military and business operations, becomes possible. In today’s doom and gloom environment, this is yet another valuable lesson that business leaders can learn from their military counterparts.

A participant at a leadership meeting I recently attended called upon leaders to convey hope to their groups. He pointed out that, in this day and age, when many people are troubled by financial challenges, war, stress, joblessness, and home loss, they look to leadership for hope. As leaders, we need to provide that hope. A leader can only provide hope if he/she embodies it. If sales drop, layoffs continue, or business necessitates change, a leader should assure his/her team that things will be OK. Because, eventually, they will be.

Judy Navarrete, SPHR, is an accomplished HR manager who is dedicated to assisting former military personnel in transitioning to civilian careers.  She may be contacted at judy@aorsolutions.com.