Some Initial Thoughts and Observations

            While travelling abroad affords one a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow in an uncomfortable environment, it can also cause one to be obliviously disrespectful to cultural norms. The factors that stop an unintentional disrespect are awareness and presence. It takes background research to become aware of what practices might be different, and then presence in each moment to apply that awareness to one’s interactions in country. Even with that awareness and presence, I still feel that acting in a manner that respect people’s place in the Indian caste system will be a consistent challenge. Even though it is legally abolished, it takes more than a law to change a cultural practice that has been around for thousands of years. It is not that I am afraid of disrespecting someone in a high caste, but rather that I might be too friendly to someone in a more unfortunate caste or perform an action that is meant for someone else to do. However much this might disagree with my personal values, it would not be my place to impose those onto others. This cultural truth I believe I will find tricky to navigate.

            How this pertains to my education in leadership is related to which theory caught my eye. I particularly liked the theory of Servant Leadership, but this cultural norm seems to be in stark contrast with that theory. On the trek it will not be my responsibility or my place to perform certain tasks, and that will, I imagine, create personal cognitive dissonance, as well as restrict the manner in which my leadership can be actualized.

            I don’t believe that either born or made are words to describe how leaders come about. I find it more accurate to say found. Counterexamples of “natural born leaders” that people may bring up is blind to context. A better way to describe these individuals may be that their circumstances forced them to find what makes them a leader. This way of describing it seems to be consistent with the Strengths Based Leadership Theory, in that it is a matter of self-awareness and application of that self-awareness. The word made implies that there is some sort of change in the person as they develop leadership, but I would not think this to be true. Although the way someone carries themself or behavioral dispositions may change, these sorts of changes do not change the answer to the fundamental question, “Who are you?”

            The self-awareness piece I mentioned I also believe to be the hardest part about leadership because it is the precursor to everything else. It is necessary to develop an effective personal leadership style. It is necessary to reach the impartiality required to put the team first, and it is more than having a strong sense of personal identity or knowing the five main strengths from a Gallup poll. It is, rather ironically, understanding oneself without a personal perspective lens, but how the self might be seen by others or an impartial third party.

            I’ll also quickly just go through some surprising, and some not so surprising things. We’ll start with the surprises. I do not feel jetlagged at all. After the almost 40 hour travel time, my body’s clock changed as soon as I got any real sleep. The way traffic works is more than slightly insane, yet it seems to work just fine. The two species of monkey here do not mind getting close, one being very calm and the other being short-tempered. Although I rarely know what I am eating, I haven’t found anything I didn’t like.

            There are only a couple things that aren’t so surprising. The views are captivating in every direction, and despite my very best effort, I am sunburned.