Leadership Lessons Learned While Traveling
For me, traveling has been the biggest teacher when it comes to learning how to be a better and more effective leader. Formerly, if I didn’t know how to do something, I would ask someone who was in a higher management position than me, but I would often receive the same generic answers. That’s one reason why I started to study experiences more as I traveled.
Here is how traveling can make you a better leader.
Decide what you like -- yourself.
I’ve always tried to steer away from arguments and debates because I’m not a confrontational person. One thing I noticed on my travels, though, is that some people would come up to me and tell me that I was “doing it wrong.”I would hear them out, but I thought to myself, what a wrong way to approach the situation as a whole.
Most people who tell you that you’re doing something wrong don’t realize that there are multiple ways to do that one thing. They think you’re doing it wrong because you aren’t doing it their way. But the beautiful thing about life is that it is open to any way you want it. It is up to you to decide.
After this traveling experience, I became more open to my team and their unique ways of following tasks and agendas. Even if they aren’t doing something in the way I would have done it, that doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong. In fact, I figured out that not being rigid about every little thing actually produced the best results.
To allow your team to take ownership, start out with a defined end goal. However, give them the creativity and flexibility around how they want to reach that end goal. When you focus on the end goal and give team members the responsibility and control to reach it, I find you’ll see better results.
Prioritize your community.
I’ve traveled to places where people live on less than $2 USD per day. Many people around the world do not have the same luxuries that we often take for granted in the United States. Still, I’ve observed that the people I’ve met cherish one another and have extremely strong community ties.
As a leader, having a community you can rely on is so important. Think about how you can contribute to your community — I believe that will be your legacy. One way to give back to your community of employees is by helping them create road maps to success. What does success look like for each individual on your team? When you show that you care, not just about return on investment (ROI), but about your team’s long-term goals and happiness, you will see increased retention.
When you travel, you learn to adapt to new situations quickly. I remember some places I visited didn’t have Wi-Fi and the lifestyle was completely different from what I’m used to in the United States. I had to adjust accordingly to ensure I was being respectful of the different cultures.
The more you travel, the more you learn how to change. As a leader, this is important because you have to adapt to the personalities and strengths of your team members in order to work well with them. A great leader is one who can address the weaknesses of a person and turn them into strengths.
Let’s say you have an employee who is really talented at marketing but they always seem to be forgetful. Rather than focusing on the negatives, hone in on the value they bring to your organization. Assign them work that plays to their strengths while simultaneously helping them address their weaknesses. To continue this example, you might help the forgetful employee find organizational tools that work for them to prevent things from slipping through the cracks.
Remember, wild ideas come first.
Traveling has opened up my creative process. It is often during my travels that I envision new business ideas — including the ones that people think are completely crazy. I thought about how I wanted to implement my ideas and what I would do to streamline business plans. The business ideas grew and the strategies spread like wildfire.
As a leader, remember that those outrageous ideas come first beyond anything else. Don’t take your ideas lightly because they will benefit you in the long run. One way leaders can be open to ideas whenever they may come — whether it’s 3 a.m. at home or while you’re traveling the world — is by always keeping a journal handy. Make sure you write everything down and learn from everything you do.
As a leader, it is important to travel and learn more about the world. In my experience, this will open your eyes to new opportunities, experiences and ways of contributing and marking your mark on others.