Leadership With Awe

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White Peacock at Southwichk’s Zoo; Photo by Susan Spencer.

I went to the zoo today with my son, daughter, and granddaughter. I don’t get to see them but about twice a year, so this was special. We went to a great zoo called Southwick’s, in Mandon, Massachusetts where I witnessed the creative genius of God at work in the patterns, colors, shapes, and behavior of the animals. In a word: it was awesome. Great leaders also see this world as something more than the banal explanations of an academic’s formula. Science cannot always explain leadership; it continues to be a wondrous mystery.

Those of us who try to teach leadership must beware of the tendency of academics to suck the adventure out of it by trying to find the scientific explanation. Instead, we should allow for the same variety in leadership styles, traits, behaviors, and strategies that are present in this awesome world in which we live. In other words, we need to keep our sense of awe.

  • Awe about the people we serve. People are amazing! They bring new surprises every day. People are full of amazing ideas. They have amazingly complex histories, yet histories that often have a common thread running through them.

  • Awe about the hand of God at work in the organizations we serve. With all the unknowns of today’s volatile environment, that any organization can succeed is a miracle. As leaders, we should be thankful that God has a hand in history and in the relations between human beings.

  • Awe about they way God made us. King David once wrote, “I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!” (Psalm 139:14, New American Bible). Great leadership does not flow from an abased view of self, but from an honest view of self, a view that includes the recognition of the hand of the Creator.

Yes, you can describe leadership using mechanistic principles such as traits theory, dyadic relationships, contingency theories, path-goal theories, and so on; this is worthwhile and helpful. But such theories should not rob us of the wonder of leadership.

Learn the theories, but also stand in awe at the beauty and privilege of leading others.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the connection between a sense of awe about life and one’s ability to lead others. Is there a connection? What do you think? What has been your experience?

2 thoughts on “Leadership With Awe

  1. Earth above is sweeter green.
    And heaven above is sweeter blue.
    And something lives in every hue,
    That Christless eyes have never seen.
    And birds with gladder song o’er flow.
    And Earth with deeper beauty shines
    Since, I know, As now I know.
    I am his and he is mine.

    –Poem heard quoted by Alistair Begg in one of his many great sermons at Truth for Life . com.

  2. Thank you Patrick for that amazing poem. So true! I remember reading G.K. Chesterton’s comments on this point in his book, Orthodoxy. He talks about how people used to see the joy and life of God in the trees as they waved in the wind. Today–because of our penchant for defining everything scientifically–we now just we a tree blown about by wind. Some would insist that superstition as been replaced by empirical fact. I would say that awe has been replaced by presumption. Thanks for coming by the site.

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