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You know the feeling you get watching an amazing sunset, dancing to your favourite music, or listening to an inspiring idea….and you’re like wow! It’s the feeling of awe and it can be a powerful emotion to use in your leadership.

Your ability to inspire awe can have a powerful effect on your team, especially against the daily backdrop of distractions, overwhelm and stress. So let’s look at why awe is important for leaders, how you can tap into it, and how you can use awe and wonder in your leadership today.

Why is it important for leaders?

Thanks to recent research, we are starting to realise the importance awe and wonder can play in our lives and also at work.

So firstly – what is awe? Awe is the feeling we get when we are in the presence of something vast! It’s hard to describe but it often makes us feel amazed, surprised or a little frightened by the depth and vastness of life. It also often gives us a feeling that we can transcend the ordinary, everyday reality of life.

So why is this important for leaders? Jonathan Haidt— Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business—says that “awe unlocks a sense of purpose because it allows us to see our individual lives as part of something much larger than ourselves.” When we are able to understand our place within a broader context, we become more inspired by our work.

Further to this, when it comes to inspiring others, Dacher Keltner—Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley and author of The Power Paradox*—believes that “awe can be an antidote to narcissism.” He says that leading with an attitude of humility and appreciation helps us become better listeners who are able to more fully appreciate the perspectives that other people bring.

Where do you find awe?

Awe-inspiring moments don’t always have to be grandiose or world-changing events. There are many everyday moments that can inspire awe too. Let’s make a list:

  1. Creative pursuits such as music, art or dance. Think of the last time you went to the art gallery or the theatre.
  2. Experiences in nature can elicit awe, like walking through trees, watching a sunset or looking out over water. Or even, watching the seasons unfold in your backyard!
  3. Incredible architecture can inspire awe too. If you’ve visited the Taj Mahal, Notre Dame or the Pyramids, you’ll know what I mean! This might also be a small little church or an art gallery too.
  4. Our own achievements can give us awe or watching the amazing achievements of others too. Like reading about a scientific breakthrough, or watching Olympians break world records or NASA sending robots to Mars (check out that documentary!).
  5. But even the most simple acts can lead to awe like helping a friend in need, being kind to a stranger or volunteering to help a local cause.

Find time for awe today

When leaders embody awe-inspiring behaviours, they create an environment where team members feel inspired by their work – which leads to increased motivation and productivity.

Let’s brainstorm a few ways you can embrace more awe within your teams.

  1. See the impact. Meet with or listen to the people that are impacted by your work. Ask them to share their ‘why’. Why is this work important?
  2. Take the team out for a hike. Mix fresh air, nature and conversation Got a juicy problem to solve, why not discuss on a walk together.
  3. Experience inspiration together. It could be a speaker at an event or you could experiment with inspiration moments like a visit to the art gallery together.
  4. Help others together. Create an opportunity to help people in need. You could make meals, or volunteer your time to mentor others.
  5. Facilitate kindness and gratitude. What rituals could you practise in your teams to facilitate more kindness and gratitude?

Our teams want to feel connected to the purpose of their work and they want to feel connected with their teams. If you offer opportunities for them to do this on a regular basis, you are helping them think better and more creatively about the challenges they face. These small acts will go a long way towards creating an atmosphere filled with awe and wonder!

So take some time today and reflect on what kind of leader you want to be; one who inspires those around them? If so – then start practising small acts of awe and cultivate an atmosphere that transforms the ordinary and connects them with the extraordinary within us all!

*Disclosure: We love to promote great resources to support your personal leadership development. This post contains affiliate links which means if you decide to use the links and make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!


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