Ronald Reagan once said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” The ability to mobilize people and motivate them towards a productive end takes some serious skill and training. People spend years cultivating competence in leadership.
One key way to become a better leader is to spend some time overseas in a study abroad program! Studying abroad can help hone several crucial traits that are absolutely fundamental to leadership success.
Leaders Value People
The Ivey Business Journal equates the idea of “universalism” with success in leadership. Universalism is defined as the “outward expression of leadership character…made manifest by respectfulness for others, fairness, cooperativeness, compassion, spiritual respect, and humility.” In essence, being a good leader means that you regard the well-being of the person behind the goal just as much as (if not more than) the goal itself.
Studying abroad encourages this kind of thinking by encouraging its participants to develop a global consciousness. So, what exactly is a global consciousness? In short, this can be defined as the ability to value the distinct differences and cultural traits of peoples across the globe. Thus, through a more intimate understanding of a culture or a people, study abroad students are able to cultivate a healthy respect for humanity — a vital component of being a true, successful leader.
A good leader is a good communicator, no doubt about it. In fact, the Holden Leadership Center at the University of Oregon lists communication as the distinguishing factor that defines a strong leader. It notes, “As a leader, one must listen…a lot! You must be willing to work to understand the needs and desires of others. A good leader asks many questions, considers all options, and leads in the right direction.” Studying abroad offers the ideal opportunity to develop excellent listening skills. As a matter of fact, survival in a foreign country hinges upon how well you listen to others. Study abroad students hone a variety of communication skills – both verbal and nonverbal – and solid communication becomes necessary to solve problems and navigate the unfamiliar practices of daily living.
Leaders Exude Confidence
One subtle trait of a good leader is that he or she is able to inspire confidence and trust in others. This kind of assurance stems from being able to rely on oneself. In turn, relying on oneself comes from a lifetime of experiencing challenges and overcoming the obstacles they present. Being flexible, adaptable, and resourceful are critical traits of leaders. These characteristics can be developed through spending time overseas. Successfully navigating unfamiliar territory and finding solutions to unexpected problems quickly increases one’s confidence. Using your own abilities to problem-solve helps to develop a strong sense of independence. And when you feel confident in your own abilities, others feel confident in following you. This leads to an ability to truly motive those around you and inspire others to serve. As Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
Our ever-growing global society is hungry for strong leadership, and studying abroad represents one surefire way in which to gain the skills and traits necessary for success in leadership. Valuing people, developing strong communication skills, and building confidence in one’s abilities are all vital components of leadership – studying abroad provides ample opportunity to refine each of these areas. Those who choose to spend time overseas and perfect their skills are most certainly tomorrow’s leaders.