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Travelling is a great leveler. Road trips are even more so! I have been exploring the highways and cities of this lovely country for the past 3 decades now and as the erstwhile British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli puts it, “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” Life moved on between trips and I stared taking up various leadership roles in large companies. Little did I co-relate that travel and leadership have much in common! But I think I have become a better leader and a better traveler — courtesy the trips I have made and the roles I have handled because travel and leadership are symbiotic.
Here are my top 5 lessons:
It is the most important trait that one should inculcate while travelling or as a leader. Patience is definitely a virtue that pays rich dividends while exploring. I remember waiting in the hot sun for a couple of hours to be rewarded with the sighting of a tigress in the Bandhavgarh forest reserve. As a leader, one faces many instances that tests one's patience. Operational issues, time delays for projects, revenue generation delays and more. It is important to be patient and understand and work towards solving the base issue rather than knee jerk reactions that aren’t thought out.
While travelling, one needs to take decisions quickly on what to do next. Do we travel a few kilometres ahead in the night or stay put at a location? Do we take a particular road recommended online or ask for local help to help you explore better? Decisions you take prove the type of leader you are. The conviction to think through a solution and take decisions is as important as having the conviction to stand by your decision in the long run. Road travel specifically prepares you well with this trait!
A leader is often required to adapt his business ideas as per the requirement of the market and the current scenarios. The current term used is Pivot. Travelling is also all about adaptability. Adapting to the customs of the local region you travel to, adapting to the food, the culture the environment will only enhance the experience of your travel. Like they say – “When in Rome ...."
Your road trip is better when you have people around you. Your loved one takes on the role of the navigator, or your friend becomes the DJ and we all have that friend who takes on the role of a comedian and entertains the entire group.
The team works together to ensure that you make more memories per kilometre! The leader needs to grow his team to take the mantle of day-to-day operations so that he can do what he does best- lead! Making sure that the team is together and happy is a key role that the leader plays. Without a happy and fulfilled team, it's very difficult for any business to succeed or for any road trip to be enjoyable.
The leader should have a plaque on his wall that says — the buck stops here! While travelling, this is a very important facet. In strange lands and unknown conditions, there will be many instances which test your mettle. How you deal with them and take your fellow travelers to safety is very important. For example, Ladakh is a popular travel destination.
The terrain and conditions there are extremely testing. Hilly or no roads, challenging river crossings, extreme cold, high altitude and many such factors create a very formidable environment. Everyday, every hour, one will face challenges that one needs to overcome and lead from the front so that the team has someone to look up to and follow. That is the hall mark of a true leader!