Don’t Sell False Hope

It is a very disappointing feeling to have put our hopes in someone's promises only to find that what was promised did not eventuate. It may be the promise of promotion, the claims of a miracle product or the untold wealth that would come from joining a business venture.

Some people knowingly peddle false hopes while others are convinced that what they are saying will come true.

Some questions to ask yourself when asked to put your hope in something or someone:

  • Does the person who is trying to convince you to have hope in something have a good track record? Are they respected as a person with integrity? Has what they have promised worked out in the past? Although people can change, past behaviour is often a good predictor of future behaviour.
  • Does whatever is promised have a solid foundation or is a bit light on with details and hazy when it comes to the strategy? Can you ask questions, investigate, doubt and challenge or does the person get very defensive very quickly?
  • Does it seem to be too good to be true? (then it probably is)
  • What do the peers you respect think about it?

Besides extreme disappointment and regret, what will it cost you and others if what is promised does not eventuate?

The challenge for leaders

The challenging thing is to engender hope but at the same time keep it real and achievable. This is real hope. There will be times when you will have to deliver bad news with long term and painful impacts. Don't avoid this responsibility or worse pretend that everything is alright.

It is vital as a leader not to peddle false hopes, even if you feel pressure from those above you in the organization to paint an unreal picture of hope for the future. It will catch up with you and you will lose the respect of those in your team and your own self-respect. People are looking for REAL HOPE.


Steve Bagi is the principal of Actuate Consulting and a consulting psychologist and speaker who has over 25 years of experience in leadership and organizational development. He specializes in helping staff teams to understand and develop their strengths, leading to greater individual and team effectiveness. Although based in Australia, Steve works with leaders throughout the world.

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