John Ortberg on Hope Management
Bringing hope is one responsibility no leader should delegate.

Ronald Reagan once gave this nugget of advice, "Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere." Recently, John Ortberg read the biography of another president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and through FDR's story he came to the realization that there is one aspect of leadership we should never delegate - hope.

I don't have a problem with delegation. I love to delegate. I am either lazy enough, or busy enough, or trusting enough, or congenial enough, that the notion leaving tasks in someone else's lap doesn't just sound wise to me, it sounds attractive. But I am coming to the conclusion that the one task a leader can never delegate, especially in the church, is hope.

I have been reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's wonderful biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, No Ordinary Time (Simon & Schuster, 2004). She notes that Franklin was not the most intelligent president of all time (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously called him a "second-rate intellect but a first rate-temperament.") He was surrounded by leaders who were more educated, more accomplished, more gifted, and more knowledgeable. But he had one gift that mattered more. "No factor was more important to Roosevelt's leadership than his confidence in himself and in the American people," she wrote.

The White House Counsel, Sam Rosenman, observed that FDR had a capacity to transmit this confidence to others; to allow "those who hear it to begin to feel it and take part in it, to rejoice in it - and to return it tenfold by their own confidence." Labor Secretary Francis Perkins noted that, like everyone else, she "came away from an interview with the President feeling better, not because he had solved any problems?but because he had made me feel more cheerful, stronger, more determined."

In the middle of a Great Depression, or World War II, or a capital campaign, or a staff crisis, people inevitably wonder: "Can we get through this? Is it worth all the effort and confusion? Can we really overcome this challenge?" They inevitably look to the person at the core; the man or woman leading the charge, the one who sees the big picture. When people see a leader with this kind of vital optimism, who radiates a sense that together we can do what needs to be done, then people tend to decide not to waste their energy wondering about "if" but focus their energy going after "how."

On the other hand, when Eeyore is at the helm the whole ship is in trouble. Eeyore may be the most intelligent, gifted, attractive, educated, credentialed person in the room. But if he or she is easily deflated, sensitive to defeat and criticism, and de-motivated by setbacks, the whole community begins the long slow spiral downward.

February 11, 2008

Displaying 1–8 of 8 comments

Stosh Walsh

February 17, 2008  9:36am

An interesting reference to Seligman and Positive Psychology. That movement defines and measures hope as agency (the will) and pathways (the way). Jesus modeled both. Indeed, He was perhaps at his most hopeful when He "resolutely set out for Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51 NIV), knowing what was to transpire there.

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Heather Palacios

February 14, 2008  7:37am

Pastor Ortberg, this was inspirational leadership at its best. I've just added a new facet to my leadership: hope-steward. Thank you so much!

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February 11, 2008  9:49pm

I could not agree more with John. Early in my experience as a preacher and teacher I would admonish, shame, or use information to supposedly get people to be more obedient to God. It is only later in life that I've discovered the mission of bringing hope in every message or lesson I give. Following Christ honestly and intently is a product of hope.

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February 11, 2008  6:46pm

I especially appreciate Ortberg's insight that hope comes from confession. Hope doesn't come neither from putting on a good face, so to speak ("stiff upper lip!"). And confession is not merely a litany of grievances or failures, though I think truly and deeply lamenting our brokenness is the first part of confession. But Grace is always the last word. I like Desmond Tutu's response, when recently asked if he had any hope for resolution of the bloody conflict in Kenya: "I am always a prisoner of hope."

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mike rucker

February 11, 2008  4:05pm

what a great article. and, melody - thanks for that verse - one of my favorite hymns. i think Jesus had this effect on people - it's what drew the crowds to Him. He radiated something better than the status quo. He was a magnet that attracted people and inspired them to get involved in making the world a better place. most of you know my views of scripture gravitate towards the liberal end of the spectrum (cough, cough)... but i don't think Jesus would have generated hope in people by preaching that everything, in the end, was going up in smoke. and i think that's what the emergent church is trying to do: reclaim that desire to follow Jesus' example in the world we live in, here and now.

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February 11, 2008  12:00pm

Ortberg is on the money here. Giving people around you hope is part of leadership. And discouragement is so easy to give into but also deadly for the leader and those they lead.

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Kaleb Heitzman

February 11, 2008  12:00pm

Simple is not always easy. Hope is a simple enough to understand but it is not always easy to pursue. Ortberg is right in saying leader's should not delegate hope. It's our job as leaders to offer direction towards hope. I believe Christian leaders are specifically designed to offer this sort of direction and to chart the path to get there. Not delegating hope means we as leaders have to be the ones to discern and chart the course to hope. If God has truly given me the spiritual gift of leadership then it would be foolish to not offer direction towards hope. I would not be doing what I have been designed to do by laying it in another's hand.

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February 11, 2008  11:47am

"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand." - Edward Mote, 1797-1874

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