Currently sitting in the Newark, NJ airport waiting to board my first flight to Munich, Germany (and then to Delhi, India)! I figured I would take this time to reflect and anticipate the culture shock that is to come for the month of May. Once again, this is my first time traveling outside of the country and I recognize that I will face a lot of challenges that I have never had to worry about in America.
Taj Mahal, Ghandi, and Bollywood are the three cultural things that come to mind when I think of India (and are three crucial components to the country’s rich history). Focusing on these exotic and exciting icons, I neglected to realize the fact that India is ranked 93 out of all the counties in the world for sanitation. Public lavatories may not always be available and parasites, bacteria, and diseases are rampant (and are primarily transmitted via water). I will do my best to demonstrate self-awareness and only drink from sealed water bottles or sources that have been treated and purified. Another challenge I anticipate in this country (maybe indirectly) is the caste system and the Indian view towards women. Broadly speaking, women are considered to be physically and intellectually weaker than men and only comprise 25% of the workforce. As an aspiring female leader, I am discouraged by this fact and hope this culture will change in the future for Indian women. With that being said, I also realize the importance of cultural competency when studying abroad. Part of culture company is demonstrating respect for others’ values, beliefs, and expectations. If a situation where I am approached by a man in public, I will be self-aware and understand and accept the role of cultural hegemony. When in the city and visiting the Taj Mahal, I plan to dress very modestly making sure to cover my legs, arms, shoulders, and head.
Studying outdoor leadership in a country and culture that is not conducive to the feminist model of outdoor leadership is a paradox some might say. Part of the feminist model of outdoor leadership is ‘creating organizational structures that prevent the marginalization of women.’ During my excursion in Himalayas, I will be exposed to many unique learning opportunities that many native Indian women do not get the chance to experience.
So what is a leader exactly? Are leaders born or made?
‘Leadership in the Himalayas’ has taught me that leaders are not necessarily born, nor made, but rather a combination of both. In one sense, you could say leaders are born if they possess any combination of the ‘trait theories of leadership.’ These traits could include family background, education, charismatic (in the sense of electing a passionate response from followers). While having these traits may help give an individual a leg up in their leadership influence, there also exists a plethora of leadership theories and styles that any leader is capable of, regardless of their innate background or traits. For instance one could exhibit a servant style of leadership in which they value relationships and shared decision making. However, on the other hand a leader could exhibit more of a coaching leadership style in which they foster discovery and awareness among followers. It really depends upon the situation and what style is most effective for the particular leader.
With leadership comes immense responsibility. Based off my own experience as president of a Pitt Business club, I would say one of the most difficult challenges in being a leader is delegating roles to followers. Identifying the strengths of your team is key to effectively assigning responsibilities to individuals that are best suited. Taking the time to recognize and properly assess each of your followers requires patience and strategy. However, if done correctly will make a huge difference in the effectiveness and influence of your leadership.