Leadership Without Borders
Why International Experiences Can Make Us Better Leaders
Why Going Abroad Will Increase Your Chances of Success
Someone once said: “travel is the only thing that you buy that makes you richer”. This unknown author couldn't be more accurate in describing the value of travelling. With the world converging and becoming increasingly global, the demand for cultural sensitivity in the market place is now a "must have". Opportunities to travel and take on international work or study experiences are more important than ever and represent a valuable asset when shaping leadership skills. You can also see how ePOS systems can streamline your business.
Market Inspector has asked some of the most successful leaders, entrepreneurs, managers and young talents around the globe about their opinions of the benefits of having international experiences to become better professionals.
Despite their different occupations, they all have one thing in common: they are not afraid to get out of their comfort zone and they have their international experiences to thank for whom they have become today.
International experiences don't only add lines to the pages of your passport, but many lessons come along with each stamp of your passport. Experiencing something new in an unknown environment allows us to learn a variety of things that don't only make a difference in our personal lives but also in our professional development.
International experiences help us mold our skills and advance our critical thinking, tolerance and rapid reasoning - all of which are absolutely vital traits to lead and inspire any team. The way we cope with challenges and unexpected situations abroad will play a role in our management and leadership style. The world is the best business school you can get.
So, get inspired, pack your bags, and start your journey now!
“In France, we all know the proverb attributed to Montaigne: “Les voyages forment la jeunesse”, which would translate in English as “travel educates the young”. Over the years, the value of any new experience abroad on the personal development of the traveller has been well proven and documented.
The benefits are various and can have tremendous impact on the personal and professional journey of that individual. Nowadays, with the advent of cheap flights, anyone can decide to travel at short notice and anywhere. The barriers to travel have been reduced dramatically and if your wish to discover new cultures is strong, then nothing can or should stop you.
As the world of business is changing and while it is becoming increasingly technologically focused, human interactions still remain at its heart. By coming to a new country and working in a different culture, young people and future managers alike are exposed to new ways of thinking, collaborating, working together and doing business. By the simple fact of taking that step, people show they are comfortable in both getting out of their comfort zone and stretching their own skills, and are interested in learning about new cultures.
It is not always easy leaving the comfort of your own home and settling in a new town, joining a new company and meeting new people. Stepping outside your world, going away to explore, by yourself, new horizons is an incredible learning experience and leadership eye opener. You can gain practical new insights into human interactions, become a more open minded individual, understand other people's perspective and develop useful interpersonal skills, such as empathy, communication, listening, trust and resilience.
If you have an understanding of different cultures, different points of view, as a leader you will be able to create work environments where people can act authentically, feel trusted and valued. In my opinion, great leadership is about being able to embrace, engage and connect with the people around you, no matter whom they are and where they come from. To succeed in your quest for acquiring great leadership skills, start now, throw yourself into the deep-end, and take on several international work experiences. As we say in England: “travel broadens the mind”. Happy travelling!”
Véronique has lived in the UK since 1994 and speaks fluent Italian and French. She holds a European Masters in Law & Economics from Oxford University and a French Master’s (DEA) in Institutional Economics (with honours) from Aix-En-provence University. In 2011, she was nominated for the Most Influential French Londoner Awards.
"One of my favorite professors often would say in his lecturers, “Things are easier to manage than people. You learn about things here, you have to go out there to learn about people”. In my career, I’ve found this to be true. My academic studies prepared me for the nuts and bolts of leadership, but living and working abroad has truly shaped the nature of that direction. Experiencing new cultures, pouring the contents of our collective experiences and seeing what’s shared and where to grow has made me more compassionate, informed, and savvy, a true benefit for not only my career, but personal journey".
Anthony Durham is from the USA (Maryland), participated in an exchange at Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, and now works in International Marketing in Oslo, Norway.
“I am glad to have had excellent opportunities in so many different countries. I learned a lot from living abroad. When you live abroad, you automatically develop a critical eye, since you are constantly making comparisons. Your perspectives are challenged. Besides, you get out of your comfort zone and are forced to adapt to changes. You learn how to overcome challenges and to deal with failure. Therefore, you become stronger. Living abroad is also a good opportunity to get to know yourself. No doubt it is very good to have many friends. However, spending time alone is crucial for self-development. Living abroad helps you develop yourself and for this reason the experience abroad is quite important to become a good leader. Living abroad makes you stronger and sensitive. The more you develop, the more you can inspire your team.
Leonardo Ohlrogge is a Ph.D. Candidate for international commercial arbitration at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and works in Zürich. He was born in Brazil and has studied and worked in Frankfurt and London.
"Travel the world is the dream of many but not everyone packs a bag and decides to leave everything behind to do so. I have done my own way. I did during a few years and after visiting 42 countries I came to the conclusion that travelling the world doesn't broad only your personal life but your career and your management style too.
If we talk about leaders and their world experience, I believe those who have visited places, eaten different food and been in world heritage sites will be able to empathize more with their team members. Being a leader is no longer being able 'to tell people what to do', it's about understanding the strengths and qualities of team members and getting them to use these skills at their best. Many times culture influence people's skills and also being culturally aware creates a connection between you and your work colleague.
You understand why Indians eat with their hands, why the Chinese hold your business cards with both hands first time they meet you or the fact that the French always write your surname in capital letters. Because you have been there, you don't criticise, you understand their way of doing things and you are able to compromise when it comes to group tasks. The more you travel, the more understand why and this leads to an acceptance of how people and their culture are. Leaders should use this knowledge to their advantage and promote integration within the team".
Rafael dos Santos is a multi-award winning Brazilian entrepreneur that has lived in London for 15 years. He is a speaker, author and founder of mi-Hub, UK's first coworking space to help migrant entrepreneurs improve their lives by becoming successful entrepreneurs.
“I remember reading an essay once at business school that said ideal leaders need to be warriors and monks at the same time: the perfect balance of fearlessness and humbleness. The image somehow stuck with me - as there is probably no better way than living in a foreign country to acquire both traits simultaneously. Ever tried to make new friends in a language that you're only just learning? Talk about fearless. Ever tried to figure out the public transport system, the bureaucracy and the housing market in a place you barely know? Talk about humility.
Of course, going abroad should never be done for the sole reason of making a CV look better, but it’s definitely appreciated by employers. International experience is very much about the ability to catapult yourself out of your own comfort zone and approaching new things with an open mind. That’s a great asset to have, as a leader but also, more generally, as a human being”.
Georgia Hädicke is from Germany, has been on exchanges in the US and Australia, holds a Master's degree from Denmark, has worked in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Brussels, and now lives in Copenhagen.
“I always feel arrogant in saying that my life is pretty uncommon. I feel lots of proud of it, thanks to all the people that I have met and all the experiences that I have lived. My leadership skills mainly come from my position as the leader in Oslo on Erasmus Student Network (ESN). I have always been creative and interested in connecting people together with the aim to contribute in making the world better. I was not sure that leadership was something for me. I was convinced that being a leader involved lots of strength that I thought I was missing despite I had already some ESN experiences as a local PR-manager and a National Communication Manager. How being shy and insecure could be positive in leading a team? Today, I am really glad that I jumped into the "cold water". It has been lots of stress and emergency situations to deal with. I am convinced those elements have taught me so much about myself and how to be a good leader, to suggest my ideas, to combine with other members' ideas to make something even greater.
I do think my international experiences have triggered this leadership hunger in me. Going on exchange abroad is not only about learning a new language or getting to know people from other countries. Living abroad is surely more challenging than staying in our home country. We are facing new situations that we have never faced before. Getting used to new places and to completely different cultures obliges us to "upside-down" our mind and go beyond our comfort zone. We learn to be more aware about our environment and our place in that world. Picture this idea as having a clearer plan of some mechanics where we do see where all the elements, as ourself for example go in. Our borders became wider and we are working everyday to make them wider and wider. We are less and less scared of the unknown, it actually becomes as exciting as a roller coaster: it may look scary, but we have learnt to have a safety system: plan B, C....Z. We do feel we can control our own world much better and can start planning how we can shape it in our ideal vision”.
Elliott Lambert is a Project leader and junior biologist from France. He has gone on exchanges and internships in Germany, the US and Greece and now works in Norway. He works at ESN, a European student association present in over 500 higher education institutions in 40 countries that seeks to promote international student mobility in Europe.
"Working as a marketing director of a 4x4 adventure magazine for 20 years, travelling around the world was part of my working routine, as we organised 4x4 driving expeditions for our readers. Considering the kind of adventure, most took place in less developed countries, where a good dose of improvising and adaptation was fundamental. This kind of adventure travelling is in fact a continuous learning process: it is going out of your daily routine and learning new skills and having to adapt to new situations, improvising when things go wrong, and to rely on your own strengths and capabilities. If there’s one thing I think everyone will take away from travel it’s to be a more patient and tolerant person. After travelling so much, you become a master in problem solving, an important skill that the working world values a lot".
André Bettencourt is Portuguese and works in Lisbon. He has lived in The Netherlands, speaks five languages, has travelled to about 60 countries and has a vast portfolio in Management and Marketing.
“Being a leader, in a small or larger company, is full of challenges and exiting experiences. You have to be prepared for all kinds of tasks, and even though a good and relevant education is helpful, often real life experience will be the key to success. I have spent time abroad, both as youth and adult, and this time has definitely shaped me as a human and as a leader. In my job as director of hospitality services in VisitOSLO, I often turn to my international colleagues for help and advice – as do they to me. Working in the travel industry IS an international business, and having the opportunity to share experiences, learn from each other and develop our services is a really important aspect in my day to day work.
As Norway is a rather small country, often consider as “far away” and a bit exotic, it is sometimes crucial to have larger and more “successful” cities and companies to measure up to. In my opinion, my international experience and network is constantly giving me new knowledge and has inspired me to become a better leader.”
Synne Myhre is Norwegian and is the head of the Hello Oslo department at VisitOSLO, the official marketing organization for Oslo. She is a qualified teacher, has travelled to many countries and is in constant contact with international employees. She has many years of experience in the hospitality and tourism sector.
"In AIESEC, we believe that becoming a world citizen is an essential part of developing leadership for today's world. By enabling international volunteer and internship opportunities, we provide youth with the chance of becoming better leaders and professionals.
Thanks to AIESEC, I've had the opportunity to work with a team of 9 young professionals, from nine different nationalities, in London. Coming from Colombia, this experience has been challenging but also extremely rewarding. At the beginning, it was complicated to understand why my Chinese colleagues wanted a more detailed plan than the ones I was used to or adapting to the British business culture but after a year, I have no doubt of the value of this experience. Because of this and other international experiences I've had, I think that having international experience is essential to seeing the world through someone else's eyes, and this new perspective will make you think differently and constantly push you out of your comfort zone. Despite you want to be an entrepreneur or work for big firm, international experiences will always add a tremendous value to your future. Soon, I'll move to the Netherlands for a new international adventure and I'm sure that it will provide me with skills and moments that will make me a better leader".
Felipe Morales is a Computer engineer from Colombia and has devoted many years working at AIESEC in the UK, an international non-governmental not-for-profit organization with a focus of empowering young people to make a positive impact on society.
Overall, international experiences will teach you lessons that go beyond creating a deeper network and the knowledge of foreign languages. You will grow, become more tolerant, more open-minded and consequently, a better leader.
Market Inspector cannot be thankful enough for all brilliant minds that were willing to be part of this project and share their highly valuable and inspiring stories. We hope you are encouraged to take similar paths in the near future!
Images designed by Raqstemac