Even a birthday in February cannot dilute its assault on the soul. It’s the Tuesday of the year, the damp, grey blast that garnishes January’s tribulations.

A few days in relaxed, tolerant, elemental Reykjavik provided a short respite but back home the drip feed of uncertainty, violence and anxiety quickly reimposed the real world.

Setting aside egregious global conflicts and humanitarian disasters, how can it be that, in Britain, the Community Security Trust reports record levels of antisemitic incidents while Islamophobia Response Unit data indicate many Muslims are too scared to leave their homes after dark?

Headlines about our politicians endorsing these prejudices, or tardily condemning them, certainly don’t help. Yet again, we are being failed by those to whom we look for direction and inspiration.

Which brings me to the quote above, attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. This is a time for strong leadership. Not in the voguish style of responding to current challenges with fake news, expedient short-termism, or fanciful dreamscapes.

But telling it like it is, defining the reality clearly, thoughtfully, sympathetically. Honesty that begets trust and engenders loyalty.

And then, the tough bit, earning the big bucks by tempering the reality with hope, without which those who follow struggle with purpose and momentum. Friend and former colleague Louise Lang recently blogged about the power of emotional contagion, how the intelligent radiation of optimism can contribute to a leader’s effectiveness. Bang on.

In this regard, I try to bring a positive approach to my executive coaching practice, influenced by pioneer of Appreciative Inquiry David Cooperrider who said: “Being in touch with what we do well underpins the readiness to change”. Again, keeping the flame alight.

Undoubtedly, hope is playing hard to get in February 2024. But it’s there for those who seek it with determination and imagination. And frankly what’s the alternative?

A good start is a belief in each other, that deep down most of us are decent. For an interesting read on this subject, try Dutch historian Rutger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History, appraised by writer and publisher John Mitchinson in this month’s Byline Times.

Bregman’s message, challenging the received wisdom that humans are fundamentally selfish and aggressive, has been generally well-received. For some, by validating the confidence to be kind, to trust, and to collaborate, it represents a solid stepping stone towards a better world.

We all need a motivating image of the future. Enlightened leaders play a vital role in both drawing the black and white shapes of reality and then colouring in the hope.