Leadership: Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick

By Anthony Adams on June 30, 2017

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick." (Proverbs 13:12 NIV)

The objective of organizations is to be productive, successful and thrive in today's society.

However, many leaders hide behind their administrative duties instead of engaging with their people. Leadership is influence and requires the intentional development of relationships.

Let's explore the correlation between the disposition of employees and work performance.

The Significance of Leadership Disposition

Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" (NIV). Within this simple passage, there is a tremendous leadership truth that perceptions and attitudes affect work behavior. A simple formula that expresses the truth of this passage is:

Leadership Disposition=(f)(Hope ↔ Deferment)

  • Hope: Confident expectation, anticipation and passionate longing for some desired end.
  • Defer: To give up one's position for another. For example, I will defer my judgment for yours.
  • Heart: Feelings and intellect; a synonym for soul.
  • Sick: To act in a contrarian way to the healthy functions of the body, emotions or organization.

This formula says that a leader's disposition (or heart) is a function (f) of longings (hope) as it relates to the impulse to abandon these desires (deferment). A person's disposition has a direct impact on productivity, creativity and performance.

Abandoning Hope

The key component to this passage is the word "deferred." What causes a person to lose hope? Why do leaders and followers abandon their dreams? When a person abandons hope, they become disgruntled, negative, apathetic and in many cases, depressed. Their heart becomes sick. The result is work performance that is impaired.

Perception and Work Performance

Our follower's and worker's attitudes have a significant impact on our organizations. If our followers become frustrated and discouraged, leaders must take steps to infuse hope. Attitude impacts performance.

Leadership When Hope is Deferred

Matthew 10:42, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward" (NIV). This cup of cold water represents the little things that we offer. People sometimes feel wounded, tired, discouraged or at the end of the road. They're not looking for houses or money, they're in desperate need of a "cup of cold water." They need some word of encouragement, some gesture of empathy or sympathy. Just for someone to come alongside and say, "I'm with you…we can do this."

I would also advise you to talk strategy. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed, apprehensive and discouraged because they don't know what to do. Review again what the goal is. Talk about what objectives must be met to reach that goal. Discuss the steps that are necessary to accomplish those objectives.


The point is, work performance is significantly increased and improved when people are passionately pursuing a desired end; work performance is impaired when hope is deferred. It is critical that leaders get from behind the desk and infuse hope into their workers. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but hope renewed will bring health, success and productivity to your organization.

Keep the Hope with a Degree

At PGS, we want our students to be good leaders. So, we offer degree programs specifically catered toward positive leadership development strategies. In any program, leaders are encouraged to carry on that passion and hope that is not deferred.


Category: Leadership