Two eight-hour train rides, a nine-hour hot and bumpy bus ride through India later and we have finally made it to Mussoorie! The next challenge for us all is to somehow make this new and foreign country feel like home for the month.
As with all new things come new challenges. One of the cultural differences we were first made aware of was that in Indian culture they don’t say “please” and “thank you” nearly as much as we do in the United States. One of my biggest concerns coming into this was getting sick from all of the new foods and different sanitary conditions. The amount of warning I received before even leaving the US already had my stomach churning in anticipation. Luckily the Hanifel Center has so far every day presented us with an amazing buffet of different and clean Indian cuisine every day! I am so grateful for the safe and delicious food we are provided with each day but it is not customary to thank someone, in this case, the chef/ the person serving us the food because “it is their job.”
Along with this in Indian culture, they are very literal as well. I feel like this could help me be a more effective leader in this country than the US when it comes to this aspect of the culture. I usually say how I feel and tend to not sugar coat things and that is more accepted in India than back home. Although there are many cultural barriers that could prevent me from being an effective leader in different ways, this is one that would be more well received in India.
Are leaders born or made? I think that it ultimately ends up being a combination of the two. Some people are born with more traditional leadership qualities such as charisma, passion, integrity, creativity ect.. but it is what one does with these characteristics that makes themselves a good leader. We discussed this today over tea when we were talking about how just because someone is an effective leader doesn’t mean they are a good leader. There have been many leaders in the past who have used their born characteristics to effectively lead millions of people but in terrible and evil ways. Being a good leader goes beyond what someone is born with and corresponds with their intristic values that they have created over time with experience.
I think that the most difficult part of leadership is the variety of followers one has who each thrive in different environments and with different leadership styles. The best leaders, in my opinion, can cater to a wide array of followers and make them all feel valued and motivated in unique ways to them. To go back to my earlier thoughts, when comparing the United States and Indian cultures when dealing with a more literal culture and one that appreciates some sugar coating sometimes a good leader would be able to lead both types of people seamlessly without placing one way of living over the other. A big part of good leadership to me is a leader being thoughtful and compassionate enough to respect differences amongst people and are willing to make the sacrifice of going the extra mile to be able to help them each succeed.
Overall it has been really great getting settled into Mussoorie so far. Even after just two days it has made me so much more excited for what this next month holds and I can’t wait for that feeling to grow.