By Sharon Glickman, USDR Contributor
In a town like Washington DC, it isn’t a surprise when you remark at a party or other event that your significant other is on the road, again. No, we’re not singing a Willie Nelson song, we’re talking about traveling and the fact that those in the business of politics are on the road a lot – perhaps as often as some well-seasoned salespeople. So if some of the most powerful people in the US are constantly on the road selling their wares (however we define what they’re selling), is it possible that road warriors have some skills that makes them better leaders?
If you think about the skills you need to travel well, it seems that most are transferable to the business and political sectors. ‘Travel well’ in this context does not mean 5-star hotels and first-class airplane tickets. Travel well means arriving at your chosen destination having spent the least amount of time, money, and effort. Aren’t those admirable goals for any leader – to be more efficient, achieve something using fewer resources, and get the job done? Hmmm, we think we’re on to something here. So what do road warriors and successful leaders have in common? Let’s review:
Optimize time: There’s a lot of downtime when you travel and savvy travelers know how to work to fill this wasted time. You may not have access to the Internet, but that shouldn’t stop you from writing responses to emails, making telephone calls, and reading reports. Road warriors make sure their mobile device is loaded with work before leaving on a trip. Instead of visiting the Cinnabon stand at the airport or watching a sappy movie during a flight, use your travel time to get things done. What do you think the press corp is doing on Airforce One? They are not playing angry birds on their iPhones!
Save money: All good travelers have tricks to save money when on the road. One of the most used is the frequent travel/loyalty programs offered by virtually every travel service vendor. A 20% discount on a rental car, an upgrade to a hotel room with free wifi and breakfast, and access to an airline’s business club in a crowded and busy airport are all benefits from loyalty programs that can be used by a traveler to save money and be more efficient. Aren’t these the same types of savings techniques you’d like to see from your leader? Finding and using every advantage to save resources makes good sense in both travel and business.
Minimize effort: Sure you could save $500 on your next plane ticket if you’re willing to have 3 layovers and take triple the length of time to get to your destination. But, the real question is does that savings equal the effort? A great leader understands that over-taxing some resources (time and effort in this case) in order to eke out savings of another (money) is not always the wisest decision. If you’re physically and mentally exhausted when you arrive at your destination, were the few bucks you saved worth the effort? That’s an important decision you must make, and like a good leader, your choice will say much about your ability to prioritize and make good decisions.
It’s the way of thinking, of how to manage time, effort and resources that make a great leader great. Savvy travelers have this skill set and as anyone who has ever travelled with children know that it’s both an art and a science. If you really want to judge how effective a leader is (or will be in the case of our political leaders), try to determine if they travel well because if so, then you may have found a great leader!