Leadership 101: Travel.
Here's a high-priority item I recommend for every entrepreneur/startup leader - especially if you're in business globally.
Travel. To as many countries as possible. It will supercharge your startup. You'll thank me forever for this advice. I've been to about 35 countries, and here are the top 3 things I learned that helped me a lot:
- I internalized that every culture is different, and what's frowned at and what's respected is different everywhere. Sometimes, what's frowned upon in some cultures is respected in others (E.g.: Working long hours - deeply respected in Asian cultures, less so in Western cultures). After a point, you'll stop frowning and will begin to enjoy the various cultures around the world, and accept them at face value. This has been crucial for me - especially as I've had to operate with clients who're all quite different.
- I learned the trust vs. power equation by experiencing it. In some cultures, trust is more powerful than power. In others, power is more powerful than trust (Sidenote: also applies to companies, not just cultures). So now I flex my style: I choose between a) Building trust and influence through subject expertise and relationships vs. b) Stating my title in my email signature to ensure I'm trusted off the bat. Has helped me carry out bizdev efforts worldwide.
- I can now make a fool of myself without worry (this is critical!). As a vegetarian, I usually need to learn to ask for food in the local language. I always get a friendly guffaw (and some food. Worldwide!) when I do that the first few times. After a point, I like the experience of saying something I don't know I'm saying right, and getting friendly feedback. How does this help at work? I can make decisions without excessive fear of failure. The correlation was something I realized much later.
I cannot say how traveling to various parts of the world will help each person, but one thing I do know is that it will have a profound impact on one's personality and career.