It’s that time of the year …. summer vacation season! Vacations provide us with that ever so precious opportunity to rest, relax and “recharge our batteries”. As that old saying goes, “travel is one of the only things you buy that makes you richer“. For me, this truly has been the case, as some of my most valuable lessons in leaderships have come from my travels.
Very early on in my career as a leader, I travelled to Hawaii for a family wedding. I am one of those “eager beavers” who wants to do everything, and does not want to miss out on any experience. My vacation in Hawaii was no different …. wedding festivities, snorkelling, sightseeing, beach-time, luau, surf lessons, hiking, biking. I wanted to do it all, and I almost did! Midway through my vacation, I signed up for a sunrise bike ride down Haleakala Volcano. Ordinarily, it would be no big deal, however, my carpel tunnel had been flaring up. Now, I absolutely do not regret signing up for the bike adventure at all. What I do regret is not taking a “brief pause” (10 – 15 minutes on the bus) to rest my wrist and fingers. Yes, you guessed it …. as a result of the flare-up, I had trouble with the hand brakes and ended up in a bike accident which resulted in considerable injuries. Not fun!
A key leadership trait that all leaders must have is self-awareness. Leaders need to be in-tune with their strengths and weaknesses … and the implications of these on their goals, the team and the broader organization/community.
Shortly after returning from my vacation in Hawaii, I took on my first management role leading a department of seasoned professionals. My experience in Hawaii taught me that I do not need to “do it all” up-front. Although I was a rookie leader with a lot to learn, I stepped into the role with confidence. I was aware of my strengths and how I could contribute and add value to the team and our business. I was equally aware of my weaknesses, and I leveraged my teammates and colleagues to learn and successfully grow.
Resilience and Positive Attitude:
Although you may not have experienced this personally, odds are that many of you know of someone who has had the unfortunate experience of being robbed while on vacation. Yup … this happened to me! Day 1 (in fact, hour 1) of my vacation in Portugal, and my purse was stolen – and with it, my passport, wallet, everything!
A range of emotions came upon me: devastation, self-pity, anger (both at myself for letting it happen and at the perpetrators), frustration, guilt (for my friends travelling with me and impact this would have on their plans/enjoyment) …. and eventually, determination! Yes my possessions were stolen, but I was not going to let the thieves rob me of my spirit. I was determined to have fun and make the most of my time in Portugal and refused to let the incident define my vacation …. I owed this to myself and my travel companions. Thankfully, this positive attitude and resiliency paid off, as we all had an absolutely amazing time in Portugal and met a lot of helpful and kind-hearted people along the way!
This “let’s make the best of it” attitude that we all display when we’re on vacation (dealing with jet-lag, flight delays, muscle aches, navigational challenges, etc.) is even more impactful and important in our everyday lives.
Great leadership is about leading through turbulence and adversity! As leaders, we need to accept that we cannot always control the “what”, but we do own the “how” …. Attitude and resiliency is everything!
Embracing Failure and Navigating Ambiguity:
If you’re like me, you will find yourself constantly “re-routing” in your travels. I could be following my GPS/Google Maps directions to a tee, yet I still manage to find myself off-course every now and then. However, travelling has taught me to “find the value in getting lost”. If I did not have to re-route than I would have missed out on some of my most memorable experiences in my travels …. being entertained by local Bahamian children at their school Christmas concert in the town square, missing my train and instead enjoying the best meal in a small family run restaurant in Prague, experiencing a cultural celebration in a small square as I was exploring zouks in Morocco, etc. etc.. I’ve learned that there is so much more to see and experience than you could ever find in a travel guide book.
In every case, no matter where I travelled, I’ve learned that the journey is as important as the destination itself! The key for me has been to apply this learning at home as well. First, by putting away the strategic plans and playbooks and taking the time to “be in the trenches” with employees, customers and partners so that I can truly understand things from their perspective.
As leaders, the onus is on us to inspire innovation and growth by creating a culture that encourages curiosity and embraces creativity – and yes, even failure! And we can do this by taking the lead and not being afraid to embrace it ourselves!