I have just returned from my company organised incentive tour to Phuket, Thailand. I was the designated tour leader. I have never been a tour leader so this was quite daunting. I spent time with my clients for 5 days and 4 nights where I was responsible for their well-being, their comfort and also their safety.
Leading a group of people on a project with a certain mission or specific target was one thing. Leading a group of people who just wanted to have fun is an entirely different story and if you aren’t careful, might lead to disappointment. This is especially challenging for an overseas trip. At the end, I am glad that the overall respond was very positive at the end, and I learned a lot, especially about leadership.
Here’s some of the leadership lessons that I took away from the trip to Phuket:
1. A Leader is always more concerned about others than about himself.
While visiting one of the resort, there were three of us who were interested in scuba-diving. Now, due to the limited amount of time we have, they weren’t able to provide a full instructions for first-timers. I am an experienced diver, while the other 2 participants were not. The instructor, however, wasn’t taking any risks. We were all required to hold hands under water, to avoid us getting lost in there, as you have almost no sense of direction under water. Being a relatively experienced diver, I felt very restricted and uncomfortable. I wanted to let go of their hands so many times but resisted the temptation. It wasn’t until after the dive that I realised the impact of my decision. The other divers, both being first-timers, felt complete assurance while holding on to my hands. They understood that I felt restricted but thanked me for not letting go of them.
2. A Leader is not always more experienced than the followers
I stepped into Phuket knowing nothing about the city, as I have never been there before. Sometimes a leader needs to lead others into uncharted territories that even they themselves have never been to. These may be a new geographical location or a new challenge. Other times, it may be a new business venture. Still others, a completely new approach to existing problems. In this case, I am also leading some who have been to Phuket multiple times. In other words, they are more experienced than I am. However, being a tour leader, I understood my responsibility to lead others regardless of my abundance, or in this case, lack of experience. Despite not knowing much about the island and tourist spots, tour participants kept coming to me with questions and I have to be ready to answer them to the best of my ability.
3. The Buck Always Stops With The Leader
One of the most important factors to take into account when traveling with a large group is punctuality. We are as strong as our weakest link. We are as early as the last person to get on the coach. That’s why it is very important for the tour leader to make sure that everyone follow the pre-defined schedule in order that we can spend as much as time as we like at each place we visit. If, however, even one person is late, the entire group suffers. And a good tour leader must be able to effectively balance between two extremes. One extreme is waiting for the one late person at the possible expense of the schedule. The other extreme, for the benefit of the entire group, is to leave that one person behind. Thankfully, I haven’t had to make that kind of decision during the tour yet I need to take every responsibility for the group I am leading.
4. A Leaders Makes The Team Come Together
In a group tour, it is likely that most people do not know everyone else in the group. Even if you are travelling with a spouse or friends, ultimately, you have to spend time with everybody in the same group for the next few days. So, you might as well get along. Not everyone is easy to get along with, however. It is up to the leader to bring everyone together and get along so that the journey is more enjoyable. As John Maxwell often said, “A winner cross the finish-line on his own, but a leader brings everyone to cross the finish-line together.” I am glad that, at the end of the tour, a good portion of the group, though initially total strangers, were able to talk, joke and laugh together, even to the point of exchanging phone numbers and email addresses.
5. A Leader Cannot Stand Alone
I am grateful that I do not have to lead the entire group alone because my father is also travelling together with me and he is a far more experienced tour leader than I am. There is also a local tour guide who helps us so much to make the journey comfortable and enjoyable. Everything that I have mentioned above, from looking after the well-being of every single individual in the group, making sure entire stays on top of the schedule, knowing where to bring the team and bringing everyone together has been done like a tag-team between my father, the local tour-guide and myself. We are unable to be effective and efficient without the synergy of all of us when we combine our strengths.
Discussion Questions: Have you travelled as part of the group before? Did your tour leader exhibit the above qualities? Have you been leading a tour yourself? I am looking forward to hearing your comments below.
The donations for the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund are still open. If you haven’t donated and would like to find out more, please visit it here.