In a broken world, let hope guide leadership

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It’s a new year, and as I checked in with family, friends, and colleagues, there seemed to be a higher than usual prevalence of illness, from the common cold to surgeries.

Looking for reasons, I learned that it was due to more than the fact that people are just working harder than ever before. It was more than just the challenges of a difficult year economically. It was also more than all the change they experienced this last year and the virtual impossibility of absorbing its relentless speed.

But even beyond these obvious stressors in our daily lives, some spoke of the chaos they feel all around them. Some spoke of the brokenness they see in families, institutions, and the world. And beyond that, they also expressed fear that we may not be able to fix it this time — not all of this brokenness.

We live in a culture where we accept as the norm that we can fix anything if we just put our minds to it. We can reach the moon in eight years if we are committed.

We can cure cancer if we invest enough in research. We can solve any business problem with the right strategy. But there seems to now be an increasing sense of despair that perhaps these new challenges are too big for us to fix.

My colleagues pointed to the fact we are perched on the edge of the environmental tipping point, unstoppable overpopulation, pervasive terrorism, and even the tenacity of joblessness.

Where is the hope, they asked?

There is hope inside each of us, just as there is despair. We get to choose which prevails. We get to accept our self-imposed limitations of belief that this chaos and brokenness cannot be healed, or we can reach down into our deep reservoir of faith and confidence and bring forth a hope that is tangible to others.

We can inspire others if we can heal our own brokenness and cope with our own chaos. We can give others hope when we stand tall like an oak tree, rooted deep in the ground, facing the winds of change with relentless resolve.

We can find this hope inside ourselves when we remember who we are as human beings, when we reflect on what truly matters in this short life of ours on this fragile planet. It’s about love and trust, not fear and hate.

It’s about our connectedness to others and our shared struggle to find meaning in our lives and in our work. It’s about our commitment to serve others and not just ourselves. At the end of the day, it’s about our humanity, and how we bring that humanity forth to others.

Marshall is a senior partner for Organizational Leadership at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. He can be reached at, or 919-265-9616.