When Hope Meets Reality: The Challenges for Leaders to Sustain the Momentum

When Hope Meets Reality: What Happens to Leaders once they are Elected

We often elect political leaders who promise the moon thinking that they have the answer to all our problems and that they would deliver us the necessary outcomes. We also fall for their visions that are hopeful and believe that they have a magic wand with which they can wish away our woes (economic and social).

Similarly, business leaders often proclaim their vision and convince organizational stakeholders, including employees and shareholders, to believe in them and back them. However, when the realities of governing nations and companies clash against the hopes and the visions, followers, whether voters or employees, often direct their anger at the leaders and blame them for not delivering the goods.

But, how much of this blame can be rightfully directed towards the leaders and how much responsibility must followers adopt or even, how much blame must they take?

As the saying goes, as are the people, so are the leaders, and as are the leaders, so are the people, there is a two way relationship between leaders and their followers and hence, it is our view that this compact between the leaders and their followers must be maintained in such a manner that it does not lead to disappointment or dashed hopes when the high sounding rhetoric meets reality.

Should Leaders Overpromise?

Having said that, it is also the case that leaders must be circumspect in what they promise. More often than not, leaders, and especially politicians, get carried away during election times and promise everything under the sun and everything under the moon, to their followers.

For instance, the case of India is a prime example of what happens when leaders belie the aspirations of voters once they are elected and realize the potential implications of their poll promises.

Indeed, the contemporary History of India after Independence is rife with examples of prospective Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers who promised the electorate with high sounding poll slogans and visions that are often found wanting once the realities of the governance of a complex country like India kick in.

The current prime minister who promised good days during the elections is now faced with the daunting prospect of fulfilling the poll promises as the very real nuts and bolts execution needed to actualize such dreams and hopes is now driving the agenda rather than the lofty hopes and the catchy slogans.

Examples from Around the World

Indeed, this phenomenon of leaders overpromising and under delivering is not unique to India alone and even in the United States, one often runs into Presidential Candidates showing the way out of people’s miseries and problems and realizing that it is not possible once they are elected.

For instance, both President Obama and President Trump led their followers with high sounding rhetoric during the campaigns only for the latter to realize that nothing much changes due to systemic barriers and that the promised Utopia never materializes.

Indeed, much like the Biblical character, Moses, leading his people into the Promised Land, most political and business leaders included, often show the way ahead, but, when the time comes, the waters do not part and the bridge to redemption is not built.

What these examples reveal is that we need leaders who can not only walk the talk but also talk the walk wherein they sustain the momentum once elected. What we are not saying is that leaders must not have a vision and a mission, but, instead, they must have a practical and practicable plan to lead their followers and not simply, play with words and slogans.

How Leaders can Sustain the Momentum

This calls for an approach that is high sounding, yet realistic in execution. Two legendary business leaders often come to mind as examples of how leaders can both promise and deliver at the same time.

They are Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, and Apple’s legendary founder, the Late Steve Jobs. Both these leaders, and especially Jobs, did deliver on their promises wherein they not only laid out a vision and a roadmap for their visions to be successful, but, they also actualized the vision.

For instance, Jobs was known to articulate an extraordinary innovation and a revolutionary concept and then, work towards fulfilling it. Gates, on the other hand, was not only able to put his money where his mouth was but also ensure that he persuaded others to believe in him.

If you are thinking that this happens only in the Business world where the stakeholders are all aware of the power of hopes and the disappointment of realities, we would like to point to the examples of the current French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, as examples of political leaders who are able to actualize their visions.

Indeed, both these leaders in their early and mid 40s represent the coming of age of Gen X leaders who not only talk in high sounding words, but also ensure that they have what it takes to actualize such hopes into realties.


Lastly, the clear message to our readers is that in the coming years, we would find many leaders who would succeed as well as fail in their endeavors due to the very real systemic barriers, and hence, it would be better if they try and fail instead of just giving up due to the fear of failure.

To conclude, the emerging generation can draw several lessons from the present times where it is not only hopes that keep us alive, but also how to overcome the realities and sustain the momentum which counts in the final analysis.

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