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Unite People in Hope
DECEMBER 2014 · Jan Ketil Arnulf
Keywords: leadership, hope, optimism

We wish each other a peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Do we believe it ourselves? As previously mentioned in this column, all forms of leadership are associated with a vision, a picture of the future. What about next year?

It is easy to recruit people through uncertainty, fear and hatred. Most of us have concerns that can be stimulated. Decision psychology suggests that people want to avoid risk and are afraid of losing what they have. We want to be very certain that a new job is better before we resign from the old one.

In politics and economics, it is easy to play on pessimism. There are many ugly clouds on the horizon–none mentioned, none forgotten. Norwegian newspapers write each week that "the downturn begins now”; we are too well off and it can’t last. In German, there's a word for this: "Endzeitstimmung," a looming sense of doom.

Of course, anything can happen. Overall, the world looks to be improving. The American professor Steven Pinker has shown that the extent of violence in the world is at a historically low level (albeit to little comfort for today's victims of violence). Poverty is a large and shameful problem for many, but in my lifetime, hundreds of millions of people lead better lives. In China, the proportion of "poor" fell from 85% in 1981 to less than 13% today (although income inequality is increasing).

This theme gives me an uncomfortable awe – is there not enough suffering in the world to refrain from being an optimist? Czech President Vaclav Havel was neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but said of himself that he was "... hopeful. For without hope there will be no progress. Hope is as important as life itself. "

Hope unites everyone who plants a tree, starts an education, or gives birth to a child, and creates more solid political foundations than fear. May we get leaders who unite us in hope. I wish readers a hopeful new year.

Translated by SONG Hui, Edited by PAN Qi

Jan Ketil Arnulf
Associate Professor at BI Norwegian Business School and the Associate Dean of the BI-Fudan MBA program. His education is from the University of Oslo, Norway and the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. His research on management team has been awarded a price, and he is at the editorial board of the scientific journal “The Leadership Quarterly”.
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