We've all worked for someone. Some we like, some we don't, and others are amazing. What is it about those leaders who are amazing?
One psychologist, Paul Piff, thinks it has to do with awe. For a quick version, Yahoo reported on some of the work done examining awe and how it could be applied to the workplace. If you'd like to take a look at the actual article published by the American Psychological Association, take a look here.
The short version is that Piff, et al. wanted to know if the experience of awe can diminish the sense of the individual self and increase prosocial behavior. In the first study, they found that awe predicted greater generosity in an economic game more than other prosocial emotions. In the second study, the experience of awe increased ethical decision making. The third study, generosity was increased. In the fourth study, prosocial values as indicated in the Van Lange Index of Prosocial Values. The fifth and final study reported that an awe experience in nature resulted in increases in helping behavior and decreased expression of entitlement.
Thinking back on the Yahoo article, one of my most memorable supervisors used a version of awe that worked well for me. When I started my new job, he said that there are some general guidelines about what needed to be done, but then asked "What could this job add to the company and people we serve?" This one question allowed me to think about education, technology, and how my new organization could improve the educational experiences for students and instructors. With this one question, he flung open the doors to the world and allowed me to look beyond myself and into the future. That was an amazing moment.
After reviewing this article, it made me wonder if international negotiations should take place not in an office or official building, but rather someplace beautiful and majestic.
Remember the advice for what to do when you're stuck? Go take a walk. Maybe there is more to that advice than what we think. Awe might take us outside of ourselves and allow us to be open more of what we're really capable of.
Try it, let me know if it works for you or if you've had a boss that used awe to get the most out of you and your colleagues.