Magazine article AMLE Magazine

International Lessons on Leadership

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

International Lessons on Leadership

Article excerpt

The best leaders learn as much as they can about those who are different than they are. The more we experience different countries, cultures, languages, religions, and people, the broader our world view becomes and the less narrow-minded our thinking is. The most fulfilling way to broaden our horizons is through international travel-which feels like oxygen for my soul.

But international travel is expensive, so when it's prohibitive, leaders need look no further than their own community to experience something new. Perhaps it's an ethnic restaurant, or a service at a church outside your faith, or a visit to an area where the majority of people speak a different language.

When you are intentional about experiences outside your own comfort zone, you can leave behind the preconceived notions and barriers you may have built up over time. Understanding and becoming more open to diversity can only strengthen your ability to lead others.

Finding Similarities Over Differences

On a visit to Mumbai, India, to speak at an educator's conference, I was gazing out my 20th floor hotel window. To my left was the sea and to my right was the lively city of Mumbai. Even from the 20th floor, I could hear the hum of the city. Vehicles darted in and out of traffic while people walked along the side of the streets, all with a purpose I knew nothing about.

As I gazed down at the busy city life, my eye caught a group of Indian children playing in an open outdoor area. By their uniforms, I knew they were students. It was obviously an unstructured time of day, perhaps the change from morning school to afternoon school or perhaps simply a recess break.

I was overjoyed to watch them at play, and to my delight, all the way from my window, I saw how similar they were to other groups of children I have observed in my travels to Africa, Europe, South America, Canada, China, Italy, and the United Kingdom. I could not hear what they were talking about and I had no idea about their ages or grades or backgrounds. All I had was a visual of their play from above.

The description of what I saw could have been a description of a schoolyard in many parts of the world. I saw smiles, laughter, and harmless teasing as students tagged each other and ran away.

I saw a child put her hand on another's shoulder in what looked like a gesture of support. I watched a small group of boys engaged in an intense conversation about something that was so passionate for them that they used large hand gestures to explain it to each other.

Imagine how wonderful our world could be if we embraced our similarities first and respected any differences second? …

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