Jumping In, Feet First


What became very clear to me very quickly was the that some of the traveling leaders were just naturally more equipped to profit from these trips than others were. They were, in the language of leadership, less prone to “derail” and behave in ways that would prevent them from getting the most out of these trips, all of which were logistically challenging, exhausting in their pace and timing, and intense from a sensory and experiential point of view. I started to ask myself, in the words of a great leadership consultant I know, what separates “the best from the rest”? There are many reasons why someone might be better able to handle a packed foreign travel itinerary, but I believe there are a few key characteristics that Great Global Leaders rely on to make the most of experiences like these:


  • Great Global Leaders prepare – There are a number of things I’ve seen people do to rigorously prepare for an experience of foreign travel and discovery. Some people focus on preparing themselves “culturally” through studying and understanding the styles, behaviors and rituals they are likely to encounter in the destination country, with the hope of being prepared to deal with the difference in a way that minimizes suprises or unpleasant reactions. Others focus on their wellness and physical conditioning, establishing travel rituals designed to relax them and offer access to inner energy and motivation. Others prepare themselves by “wiping their slate” back at the office, clearing away all distractions and delegating work so they can focus entirely on the experience at hand. In a compressed and stressful experience with travel, preparations of this sort remind me of a great tennis player repeatedly going over her serve and volley in preparation for any type of shot or serve her opponent may be likely to deliver.
  • Great Global Leaders share – On trips like these, everyone has at least one moment where they are caught outside their comfort zone (most of us have many moments like this). The best leaders I know actively seek out someone in the group to open up to about their vulnerabilities and discomfort. Not only does it help just to talk to someone; it also helps to have the chance to gain the perspective of a peer. Peer perspective is often some of the most valuable input that a leader can receive, more valuable even than any prepared or “expert” advice. Sharing is also a great skill for back at the office. We know that the best and most inclusive leaders are very comfortable showing their vulnerabilities and reaching out to their colleagues for support and guidance.
  • Great Global Leaders care – At the end of the day, the leaders who could look back and know that they participated in something important – meeting people from all walks of life and every circumstance, and experiencing what for most people is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – these were the leaders who came away with the most value. They cared about whom they met, what they learned, and how they behaved during the time they spent representing their company, their country and their cultures.