When traveling alone, I only had to think of my own want’s and my own needs. When traveling in a group, I had to compromise on my goals and make sure my needs were met.
Now I’m leading a group of 4 of my students, who I am happy to call my friends, on a research and educational trip through Korea, and there is a world of difference in my role and responsibility.
Thankfully, I think everything I have done up to now has prepared me well for this;
I have been traveling throughout Asia since 2007, both in groups and alone. I have helped build schools, shovel roads, translated for lost foreigners, and done more research and learning on tea than I ever expected I would do. I have also been in some sticky situations from a near bar fight in Peru (with my dad!) to being escorted by soldiers to their bunker in Nepal. I have been bitten by a snake and gotten rabies from a dog. I treated myself for Typhoid in India.
And yet, none of this is what leadership is about; for many of the students being out of the country and being in Asia is a new experience. This is the first time any of them have been in Korea; this is their first time backpacking through a country; this is their first time on a research trip.
How can a lead the group so that they can grow as people and achieve their goals?
That’s a question that will keep one up at night.
I have found that leading by example, always being positive, and framing the situations are the foundation for good leadership. I try to spend as much time out of focus as possible. I assigned rotating roles including Leader, Chief, Navigator, and Care-taker so that each person can grow into the position and step out of their usual place in the group; this allows all of the members to take possession of the success of this trip, and to feel responsible for our successes and our failures.
But in the end, it is up to each individual to decide what their goals are, and to decide what they will take away from this experience. Their is very little I can do to make that happen for them.
I am so happy to say that this is a great group, and everyone traveling with me is so far ahead of my expectations for them; they have all taken on a real challenge in coming to Korea, and in rising to meet it, I think they have all surprised themselves.
I have learned as much about leadership from each of them as I have learned about tea ceremony this trip. If it wasn’t for the passion all of us in the Tea Institute share, none of this would be worth doing.
I know all of my students will read this, so I want to thank them for sharing this experience with me.
The hardest part of the trip is behind us now, but the future is still a mystery.