Lead with Hope and Optimism During COVID-19

How do we keep our teams engaged and inspired to work at their full potential during the age of COVID-19? When anxiety and uncertainty pervade every conversation, how do we keep reaching for the next best idea?

We need healthy bodies, minds, and spirits for energy and clear-headedness. But how do leaders break through the ubiquitous noise of anxiety to deliver a message of hope?

Because we are all bombarded with devastating messages in the news, hearing leaders at work say, “there is nothing to worry about; we’ve been through things like this before;” breeds resentment and mistrust. Leaders are better served to acknowledge the current reality and communicate honestly with hope to engender trust and respect.

Honest Messages

  • What we are experiencing is novel. It is unprecedented in scale and complexity.
  • There is no playbook to guide us.
  • We have never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes.
  • It’s understandable that you are worried.
  • COVID-19 is likely to be with us for a long time.

Hopeful Messages

  • This is the time to be ingenious. Instead of being in “survival” mode, we need to be in “re-invention/transformation” mode.
  • We may make mistakes, but creativity can help sustain us.
  • Because we have no playbook to follow, we are ripe for a rich exchange of creative thought.
  • The problems we face can only be solved collectively.
  • Every single person can contribute.
  • Every contribution is valued and needed.
  • It is human and healthy to worry.
  • The longer we dwell in anxiety, the more chances for successful outcomes decrease.
  • We will lose the opportunity to inform what we will look like and how we will function in the future.


A recent study found that, if we believe in our mission and have confidence that we can overcome our current circumstance — to create something new, better, and transformative — we will have the motivation to take the next best step.

Consider this neurological fact: It’s impossible to worry and simultaneously do our best problem-solving. Recent neuroscientific studies confirm that we do our best work when we are hopeful, curious, and motivated to discover something new. Introduce the following sentiments to make your message more impactful:

  • Hope, confidence, and optimism stimulate the problem-solving and decision-making areas of the brain, referred to as the executive network. When we focus our attention on the goals and actions that would be the most rewarding — for ourselves and others — it shuts down the worry centers in the brain that interfere with our ability to think at the highest possible levels, and we are motivated to act.
  • Excessive worry and stress compromise the body’s immune system but, focusing on a deep inner value that has great meaning (i.e., family, integrity, perseverance, etc.) can turn on 1,200 stress-reducing genes and 1,000 immune-enhancing genes. In the age of COVID-19, this is very good news! A healthy immune system can help protect us from contracting the virus and recover from it more quickly if infected.

If we stay focused on the big picture and acknowledge our reality, we can approach the future with hope and optimism and collectively overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Written by:
Linda Cassell
Financial Management



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