From JFK to Mussoorie


After a 14-hour flight to Delhi and then a 7-hour drive up the winding roads of the Himalayan foothills, we finally made it to our home for the next two weeks, Mussoorie, India. The journey certainly wasn’t without its challenges, however, it went smoothly overall. From getting through airport security in no time at all, to having no one in the seat next to me on the plane, to having a fun drive with absolutely no issues, the trip up to this point has gone pretty well. 

What cultural norm(s) of the host country do you anticipate being a challenge to learning about leadership? Why?

To begin with, there are a number of cultural differences between India and the US. One of the first that I noticed was the way time is viewed. I was told before arriving that India’s aren’t in a rush like Americans always seem to be, instead they’re patient and comfortable with waiting for things to happen. This for me is going to be a challenge because I hate waiting. If something needs to be done, I hate waiting for everyone to be ready on their own time, and I think this has a large part to do with the culture I was raised in. I think this idea of being more patient has to do with a more fundamental difference in cultural norms that I was also told about, and have already witnessed on multiple occasions. The difference is how people communicate with one another, and how blunt and direct individuals are. American culture promotes advocating for yourself even if it puts someone else out by being as blunt and direct as necessary. Indian culture appears to be on the opposite side of the spectrum, with Indians talking much more passively. The result is that often statements need to be interpreted through subtle cues and gestures. As a foreigner, this will obviously be a challenge. One way to overcome this for me will be to ask questions and double-check that I’m on the same page as everyone else. 

Are leaders born or made? Why?

 I would say that leaders are definitely made. One’s character traits really influence how someone leads, and whether or not they are a good leader. This question really goes back to the nature vs nurture debate, and I’d say that one’s character traits are definitely a combination of both, but it favors the nurture side of things. Additionally, I’d argue that there are so many different types and styles of leadership that work better for different people. Everyone has their own strengths which they can apply to their own leadership style. There’s even a leadership theory named after this concept, the strength-based leadership theory, but all of the theories that we’ve looked at have stressed the idea of multiple intelligences and utilizing your strengths to your advantage. To fully answer this question, I’d say that anyone can improve on various leadership skills, but everyone can also just become in more touch with their natural intelligences. Because everyone can improve and become a better leader through self-reflection and self-awareness, I’d definitely say that leaders are made. 

 What do you think is the hardest part about being a good leader?

There are a number of challenging parts about being a good leader such as communication and consistency, but I’d say the hardest and most important part of being a good leader is self-reflection and self-awareness. Everyone wants to become a better version of themselves, but often times it’s so hard to even be aware of what you can improve on. The saying goes that you are your own harshest critic, and while it’s definitely true, there are just so many things that go completely over our heads unnoticed. The best way to combat this is to not only be open to criticism but to actively seek out constructive criticism from others. This is a great way to start the process of reflection and self-critique in order to become a better leader.