Travel is delightful. It relaxes, enriches the eye and the soul, and generally reinvigorates. That is something we all know. But it also provides us with invaluable business leadership skills, says Deepshikha Dhankhar
There was a time when travelling was limited to only those who had a little extra to spend, the roads weren’t that well connected and flights were only for the elite. Today, in some countries, travel provides you with a competitive edge in the job, college and scholarship market. More and more millennials are taking a gap year between high school and college and also between jobs to experience what encompasses a great ‘travel’. We all know that travelling makes you a better ‘traveller’ to say the least and to be the go-to person for other’s itineraries. But can it do more than this? Yes, it can! It can definitely make you a better leader. Here’s how:
1. It makes you a learner
According to studies, 94% of business leaders in America are pro-travelling. They believe that not only does it give them memories to hold on to but it also transforms into a competitive advantage at their work place. It is not about the places you visit but the experiences you have while choosing which route to traverse. It makes you learn a thing or two about which path would be shorter, easier, more beneficial and even less or more dangerous in some cases. Do such thoughts belong anywhere in your business world? Yes, they do! The path to tread is fraught with danger in both worlds and your travel experiences can help you choose wisely.
2. Better communication
What happens when you cannot understand someone’s language? You eventually figure out a way to communicate. And what could be better way to learn this lesson than in an unfamiliar setting where nobody understands your language and you do not understand theirs. Mind you, this is not just limited to verbal communication. Travelling enables you to be innovative in communication and also develops your ability to make meaningful conversations with strangers. And being able to communicate with anyonedespite language barriers is a sure way to make you successful, especially if you are in a business that widths the globe.
3. Appreciate diversity
We live in a diverse world which we neither see nor appreciate when we limit our travels. A secluded homogenous environment devoid of the variety that abounds is what you can easily call your preferred setting. Travelling helps you crack these environments. When you go to a different country, meet different people who may not think like you, engage in a culture which you may not even have heard of; you learn to appreciate how diverse the world around you is. You will begin to escalate how different people react differently in various situations and you will be able to think from their perspective too. It creates empathy, very necessary for a leader.
4. Better time management
When you realise that the world doesn’t always run according to you, you learn to adopt the pace of the world, especially when in an unfamiliar place. Travelling can make you a better judge of time when you move out of your comfort zone and makes you realise that time indeed is of great essence. You will learn to value it more and that’s one of the greatest qualities a leader should possess. All you need to do is miss one train or flight and it is guaranteed that your time management skills will drastically improve.
5. Problem solving skills
When you are travelling, you constantly encounter unexpected problems and you have no other alternative but to solve them. After all, you wouldn’t like to live on the road if you reached the wrong hotel by mistake and your phone is dead, or you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a place if you accidently lose your wallet or if it gets stolen. We always hope that such situations don’t arise but sometimes they come knocking at the wrong door. And sometimes the door is yours. These problems test your problem solving ability, and compel you to find a solution – an experience that will stand you in good stead in your leadership journey.
6. Working with constraints
Sometimes, even in business you may not have all the tools and you are required to work within your means. It is the same with travelling. It teaches you how to work with what you have got, rather than lamenting over what could have happened if you had more. When you are limited by what could fit into a single suitcase, you need to be smart enough to know or decide what you carry with you and when the situation arises, work with those tools. The same applies to the business world, where often you have to work within the limitations of the finances, environment, technology or human resources available to you.
7. Better networking
You may be an introvert by nature or an extrovert, business is impartial to those traits because you will still need to communicate with people, network, make that phone call, sometimes bite the bullet and carry on. And what’s a better setting to learn all of this than travelling? Infact, it gives you a great opportunity to build relationships all over the globe, makes you a great listener and a better communicator. It will force you to get out of your comfort zone and talk to people you wouldn’t otherwise care to. You may hate it at first but eventually it will help you strengthen your own networking skills and that can yield great results for your business with time.
8. Better adaptability
Just like business, travelling involves changing plans at the drop of a hat and finding ways to adapt to a new idea, plan or environment. Your flight might get delayed, you might lose your bags, you might be at the wrong hotel, your taxi driver might trick you and the list goes on. These, at first, seem to be major hindrances but these things only enhance your ability to adapt to a new reality. As life-teaching moments, these will teach you to be patient, flexible and at the top of your ‘I have got this’ game which can work wonders when applied to your business-like situations.
9. Creating a community
Whether you are a people’s person or your own, wherever you go, you are silently making a following that you are not even aware of. When looked at closely, you will see some people would like you and some won’t no matter what you do or say to them. What do you do in such situations? You will take the ones that like you and build a community and the ones who don’t and build learning and thereafter, skills if they are of some benefit to you. It is not always what you can do but how you influence people that matters in the business world because ultimately, they are your customers, employees and team-mates.
10. Inspires innovation
Travel can push the creativity out of you and spark innovation when you most need it. If you are thinking of a global brand or work with one, you need to push yourself beyond the walls of your cubicle and think innovatively. There are a few companies in the world that actually force their employees to take a holiday and go wherever they wish to go. Not because they are bathing in money (that could be the accelerator) but also because they want their people to constantly exercise their creativity and be innovative. After all, good leadership is not just a sum of technical skills acquired from Universities but also what those Universities don’t teach you.
11. Managing stress
Let’s face it. Stress is a part of everyday life and it is something that we all are still trying to deal with. Some of us have got the secret and some of us are still looking for answers. And then, there are those who will rather not find the secret or any answer. But travelling could just be it. When you travel, you learn to deal with people and circumstances which might not have stemmed from you originally. Some of these could give you pleasure and others pain, or rather stress. You cannot simply fire such people and disperse such situations if they visit you. So, what do you do? You learn to deal with them. It is essentially one of the best things that travelling can teach you.
In the end, travelling imparts leadership at every step of your journey. Whether you are on your own or have company, you will have to be the one to take the lead at some point, if you want to succeed. Against all odds, hell or high water, your ability to take the lead, dunked in empathy will make you a top notch leader. All of us want to be that but not many of us are. And the simple reason is – we don’t travel enough!