Creativity is essential for strong leadership. Leaders forge new ground, do things differently than they’ve been done before. They must come up with creative ways of getting people, as Bill Hybels says, “from here to there.”
And yet, most leaders don’t put “increase creativity” on their short list for leadership development. It’s something leaders think they are not—they’re all business, they’re about getting things done, making big decisions. Creativity is mistakenly associated with being artistic, or even a bit flighty. It feels extra-curricular.
But here’s the thing: leaders need to be creative. After all, our job is to solve problems and find new paths. But how can we increase our creativity? Think of the times when you were most creative: you probably weren’t “trying” really hard. You had some space, and you were focused on something other than yourself.
Finding that space can be the key to creativity for leaders. I would argue that if we put ourselves in places where we experience awe, our creativity will increase exponentially. And as a result, we’ll be better leaders.
Scientists are discovering that human beings need awe for optimal functioning. We need it! Awe makes us slow down, stop, reflect. In that awed state, we are more open to new ideas and even transformation. Awe makes us healthier. It feeds our minds and souls. We are wired for awe, because God made us, and desires connection with us.
Through the beauty, splendor and sheer awesomeness of creation, God reaches toward us, hoping to stop us in our tracks, to get us to connect and reflect and yes, to worship.
Have you considered a spiritual practice of deliberately putting yourself into situations where you will feel awe, as an exercise for your soul? Get out and look at the night sky. Stand on the shore of the ocean. Look at a mountain. If you live in the Midwest like I do, watch movies of mountains and oceans. Just kidding. Opportunities for awe abound even in not-so-scenic places.
Right now, the fall colors are beginning to unfold around my neighborhood. I keep telling myself to slow down and just look at the beauty—to be awed by the annual miracle of maple leaves. I make myself step outside the back door at sunrise and look at the sky and trees and sun filtering through them and allow myself a few moments of wonder.
When we worship, we honor, exalt, revere. We take our eyes, attention and concern off ourselves, and focus on God’s amazing, awe-inspiring power, strength, tenderness, love. God is vast beyond us, yet, desires to be our intimate friend. This, in itself, is awe-inspiring. Experiencing awe can increase your creativity.
Worship recalibrates our hearts, giving us a right-sized view of ourselves, particularly in relation to God. It creates space to focus on God, even amidst the strife, conflict and all the things that God is not. This is especially helpful for leaders, because we tend to think that the world would stop spinning if we quit working so hard.
Worship is awe, expressed. It is acknowledging God. And experiencing awe can fill us with God’s power and creativity.
Scientists who study the emotion of awe actually recommend seeking out awe-inducing experiences. They might not call it that, but they’re inviting all of us into spiritual disciplines.
Go look at the night sky. Take time to notice things vast and beautiful. Consider the creation. Look at, contemplate, think about. Walk your body outside and just breathe in the air, open your eyes to see the light, notice beauty.
By exposing ourselves regularly to the creation, to God’s work in the world, to beauty, we can move our hearts to worship. By regularly choosing to notice and name God’s work in the world, we will build worship reflexes, adoration muscles. We increase our creativity, and hence, our leadership effectiveness.
Take time to consider God’s creativity, and you will find your own creativity will grow as a result.
Keri Wyatt Kent is the author of GodSpace: Embracing the Inconvenient Adventure of Intimacy with God (from which this article is adapted), and 10 other books. Her company, A Powerful Story, provides editing, ghostwriting and publishing services. She also serves as a response pastor at Willow Creek, where she has been a member for 30 years and served in a variety of volunteer leadership positions. Learn more at http://www.keriwyattkent.com/.