• Kathy Miles

10 Lessons from Travelling that can be Applied to Leadership


It struck me recently that when you travel frequently, you learn a few lessons along the way. I believe that many of these lessons can also be applied to leadership. I've chosen to focus more on the positive side of travelling (rather than those bad experiences I'm sure we've all had).

Here are my top 10 in no particular order:

1. Some planning is essential:

All successful journeys have some elements of planning, whether it be how you are going to get there, how long you are going for and where you are going. As a leader it is important to ensure that you know where you are going (what is the organisation's vision) and how are you going to help get there. There needs to be purpose and value to everything you are doing.

2. It's always nicer to journey with others:

Although we can go it alone, it's always better to journey with others. If the destination is worth reaching, you want to have someone else to talk to about the journey and how you got there. The same can be said for leadership - it will be a long, hard, lonely slog if you do it alone.

3. You can always learn from others:

Despite how much we think we know, travelling shows us that there is always something we can learn from others. When we travel overseas we are immersed in different cultures, different languages, different beliefs and ways of life. Likewise in leadership, those around us have had many different experiences and come from different backgrounds. Successful leaders leverage these differences in their team and get the best out of each employee.

4. Try to take as little baggage on the journey as possible:

Travelling is always a bit of a balancing act in regards to how much baggage you take with you. Nothing is worse than your travel plans being impacted by the amount of luggage you are carrying around and you also want to leave room for the exciting things you will find along the way. Leadership involves the same balancing act; you want to make sure that all of your team are pulling their weight. You also want to ensure that if something goes wrong in the workplace and you end up in a conflict situation with another person - that you both work through it and leave it in the past without bearing a grudge. Being able to forgive and move on is an important quality for leadership.

5. Flexibility is essential:

Whilst some planning is required, being able to go with the flow is a necessary skill for both travel and leadership. You never know when your travel plans are going to be disrupted - planes could be delayed, strikes could happen, luggage could be lost - so much can go wrong. Likewise in leadership, flexibility is a must. When you are a leader you are working with people, and people are unpredictable. The need to work around any possible disruptions or changes to timetables is an essential skill that all good leaders need to master.

6. Treat people nicely to reap the rewards:

Have you ever had a free upgrade to a better accommodation room just because you are friendly to the check in clerk? When you are travelling, it is amazing what simply being nice will get you. The same can be said in business, if you look after your employees and treat them with respect and look out for their best interests, then they will look out for yours.

7. Don't be paranoid but be alert for those who want to do you harm:

Travelling can be a dangerous thing as often travellers are the targets of all kinds of scams, theft, muggings etc. It is important to not be too paranoid about personal safety that it impacts your trip, but to be alert enough that you don't fall prey to those who want to do you harm. Leadership also comes with its fair share of dangers. People can get jealous of your achievements, feel threatened by you or simply not like you, being aware of the true feelings of those you work with is a key skill in being emotionally intelligent.

8. The culture around you plays a big part in satisfaction:

When you travel overseas, the most authentic experience involves you being immersed in the local culture. This might mean eating local cuisines, drinking local wines/beers and experiencing local customs and traditions. Coming back from a holiday in Europe - one of the best memories I have is of a Swiss Folklore dinner we went to where I got up on stage and yodelled and my husband tried to blow the alphorn. It was an amazing night that we still laugh about today. Leaders are responsible for a large part of the workplace culture and they need to take on this responsibility and work at constantly improving the culture so that their team members are satisfied in their jobs and want to stay with the organisation.

9. Exploring new territory can be fun, exciting and of huge benefit:

Nothing is more exciting than exploring new places that you have never been when travelling. These experiences can be fun, exciting and give you a lifetime of good memories and good friends. Unfortunately in business, a lot of people get stuck into a routine and when something new comes along it can really upset the apple cart. Leaders need to create an environment where change is expected and welcomed by ensuring that employees are always communicated with along the way, supported, encouraged and trained. By making change a positive thing, employees will constantly look for ways to improve and even be the initiators of change.

10. Always have a backup plan:

There are times when things will go wrong when travelling. Making sure you have travel insurance is essential! We were in the middle of a European tour and had stopped in the town of Innsbruck, Austria for the night when I ended up in hospital with kidney stones. I had never had them before. Luckily we had travel insurance which paid for everything - the ambulances, the hospital, the accommodation when we needed to stay an additional night and the taxi we ended up taking from Austria to Switzerland (via Italy) to catch up with the rest of the tour group which cost €500! As a leader, you always need to ensure that you have a contingency plan should something go wrong. Cross-skilling your team members can go a long way to ensuring that you are not reliant on one person for a particular job.

Ultimately, being a leader is one of the most rewarding and challenging things you will ever do. That is why it is so important to offer your up and coming leaders effective leadership training. Contact PDI Solutions today for a free consultation around leadership training. Visit www.pdisolutions.com.au or email us today at info@pdisolutions.com.au.

#LeadershipLessons #Travelling #Leadership

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© 2015 PDI Solutions (Trading as Kathleen J Miles)

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