Peru and Leadership

10 Things I’ve Learned about Leadership from our Peruvian Tour Guide

Peru is an amazingly diverse, charming and exciting country to visit, so we planned a family trip there this Summer, and our vacation turned out to be an all around success. This was mostly due to the professionalism, knowledge, kindness and helpfulness of our local tour guide, Roger, who taught me a number of important things about great leadership. Here are the 10 I found most relevant:

1, BE THERE – your full presence is essential, it communicates your devotion to your team.

2, COMMUNICATE KINDLY BUT CLEARLY – calling our group “family” sounded cheesy at first, but after a short time it made us all feel we belonged together. I am not suggesting leaders use this term with their team in a corporate environment, but the way you communicate with your people can either make them feel they belong, or it can make them feel distanced. Psychological safety is essential for team success, which strongly depends on a sense of belonging, so choose your words carefully!

3, BE KIND – kindness is key to any relationship. When you show kindness it is contagious and spreads through your group, gradually becoming a norm. A kind leader will create a kind group culture.

4, SHOW THAT YOU CARE – there is nothing more important for your team than knowing that you care. Remember the old saying? “Nobody is interested in how much you know until they know, how much you care.” It will make your people feel safe. Even if there is not much you can do about an issue, showing you care and being empathetic creates stronger connections and builds loyalty. Small acts of kindness can go a long way and don’t cost you much other than a little extra attention!

5, KNOW YOUR STUFF – it sounds obvious, but it is really important that you demonstrate a good, reliable knowledge and competence of your field or specialty. Safety and security will build amongst your team if they see they can rely on your competence. This requires you to have a sense of direction, but also enough flexibility to react to unforeseen changes, as well as a certain amount of humility to admit when you simply don’t know. This kind of openness and vulnerability – although not easy to do – will encourage authenticity and transparency and will help build trust.

6, HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE – your attitude is contagious. Always remember you are a model to your group, whatever mood they see on you they will likely adapt themselves, so make sure your attitude is worth catching!

7, RESPECT THOSE YOU LEAD – basic respect towards yourself and others will ensure a constructive and cooperative behavior among your team.

8, HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR – it will help you through many situations and will create a special bond with your team. Beware though that your jokes never undermine the respect, respect must always come first!

9, USE YOUR POWER TO SERVE – yes, you are the leader, you know the most and probably have the most experience, but don’t let this simply feed your ego. Rather, put it in service of all your members, thereby earning their respect and full devotion to you.

10, BE HUMBLE – when there is an opportunity to publicly acknowledge someone, do it! Thank them, appreciate their work and express your sincere gratitude for their contribution. This will most certainly ensure a culture of appreciation and positive feedback – essential ingredients for high performing teams –  as opposed to that of continuous judgement, criticism and blaming, all of which create fear, the biggest obstruction of sustainable peak performance.

I could list all the specific behaviors and incidents that prompted these thoughts, but it would make for a very lengthy blog post. Suffice it to say, our tour guide Roger did an amazing job. He had an enormous amount of knowledge and competence but managed to remain humble and flexible in critical situations. He also had a great sense of humor and demonstrated a positive attitude all along. His communication was kind but clear, which helped us feel cared for and safe. And he was there, available to us all at any time we needed his attention or help.

We couldn’t have asked for a better leader, and believe me, when you are so far away from anything familiar to you, great leadership can make a huge difference!