Boundless Leadership: Soak in awe for growth

Insights from Zoë Routh

Zoë is on a mission to encourage big thinkers with big hearts to make a big difference. She is passionate about showing leaders how to challenge limitations so they can live and lead with boundless energy, confidence, and conviction. With over 30 years experience developing leaders, she has published three books: Composure: How Centered Leaders Make the Biggest Impact, Moments: Leadership when it matters most, and Loyalty: Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and create lifelong advocates. These are available here.

I watched the afternoon sun light up the autumn tree leaves like a ballerina ablaze. It was magical! There was no fanfare, no trumpeted procession. Just nature expressing itself in full glory, boundless.

I’ve spent a lifetime in love with nature. I’ve had some profound personal experiences face to face with the Great Mystery: northern lights and their ghostly swirls above a remote wild lake, serenaded by loons and their haunting soulful cry. I’ve spent many summer afternoons staring out to sea, bedazzled by the diamond sparkles.

I see dead trees on arid Australian landscapes as frozen dancers, a shadow of consciousness, expired and retreated. Like a tide that comes in, swirls about, and ebbs away.

I feel the breeze and marvel at its invisible touch, sometimes gentle, sometimes fierce and ferocious.

I’ve not been a mother, and yet I ponder the extraordinary miracle of a life, hewn from flesh. How two lives collide and give rise to another unique being, complete unto itself, ready for its own extraordinary adventures. This everyday occurrence is so astounding, I find myself weeping.

I see a small lizard scurry in its stop-start staccato dance, defying gravity on tiny cracks and ledges. Ants and their regimented mission to support the colony. Lumbering bees and their drunken visit to sensuous seductive flowers.

When I get a text from my mother at 2:30am, from the other side of the planet, where she is in a different hemisphere and a different season, I wake bleary eyed and stare at the magnitude of human ingenuity. We have transcended time and space with our technology.

The world is saturated with delights, enormous and tiny.

This sense of awe is gateway to joy. More than that, awe changes our state, our consciousness. Piaget explained awe as ‘adjusting mental structures that cannot currently assimilate a new experience’. The state of awe is when we experience vastness, new experiences that may include threat, beauty, ability, virtue, or the supernatural. This sense of vastness challenges how we perceive and make sense of the world. It literally stretches our perception, and increases our sense of perceived time available.

We can experience awe anywhere. Sometimes it is in the presence of others. Quite often it is in nature. Art and architecture can hold this experience for us too. I remember visiting the Taj Mahal with a group of leaders some years ago. One of the participants, Brooke, stood at the gateway, taking in the site of this magnificent mausoleum in the distance. Her lip trembled and eyes welled. It was truly extraordinary! The attention to detail, the care and craft thousands of workers took to fulfill one man’s vision to honour his wife was breathtaking.

And so the invitation to you is this: savour the moment. See the glorious expression of life all around you. There is an abundance of awe, always, everywhere. Joy need not be chased; it floods in when we choose to see through eyes of awe.

Nature is Outward Bound Australia’s classroom. The weather – both beautiful and changeable plus the people around us are the teachers. If you would like to learn more about yourself please contact us 1800 267 999
This is Zoe’s final insight for us. We thank her for her contributions this year. If you would like to create an Outward Bound Australia blog please get in touch with us by emailing We would love to hear from you!

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