Vacations: Valuable leadership lessons from my travels!

“Travel is one of the only things you buy that makes you richer”.

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.


travel blog 2Very 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:

travel blog 3Although 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:

travel blog 4If 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!

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Pay It Forward: Redefining Leadership

I love this time of year!  I love everything about Christmas and the holiday season …. the  decorations, the smell of cookies baking in the oven, the music and merriment!  It’s the time of year where we are all children at heart: in it’s simplest form, it’s a celebration of the child within us!

For many, it can also be the most stressful time of year.  We create unrealistic expectations and build it up to be more than it really needs to be.  The holiday season becomes a check-list of tasks and “chores” that we need to tick off, and we get so caught up in our “to do” lists that we lose touch of the child-like wonderment of the season and the true meaning of Christmas.

The same is true for leadership …. We often overcomplicate what it truly means to be a leader!

One of my favourite TedxTalk on leadership is Drew Dudley’s “Leading with Lollipops” (in fact, this video is one of the inspirations behind this blog series and my own perspective on leadership).  In the TedxTalk,  Drew shares a funny story from his life, and calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as an everyday act of improving each other’s lives.

We all have the ability to lead and inspire others through simple every day “random acts of kindness”.   When we over-complicate what it is to be a leader, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day from ourselves and from others.

In the words of Colin Powell:

“Being kind doesn’t mean being soft or a wuss.  Kindness is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of confidence.  If you have developed a reputation for kindness and consideration then even the most unpleasant decisions will go down easier because everyone will understand why you are doing what you are doing.  They realize your decisions must be necessary and is not arbitrary or without empathy.”


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As we head into the chaos of the holiday season and embark on the new year ahead, let’s redefine leadership and Pay-It-Forward for 2018: Make time in our every day for simple, every-day random acts of kindness, and also take the time to seek out and tell others when they’ve inspired us!