Archives For Lessons From Abroad Series

Leadership Lessons From Haiti

September 8, 2010 — 8 Comments

A few weeks ago my husband and I led a missions team to Haiti. As I was observing (and serving) in the poorest country in the western hemisphere,  I began to think about how there are some leadership lessons inherent in the environment in Haiti that most of us could stand to think about more often. You may think to yourself, “what can I learn from a country that has 90% unemployment and a 70% illiteracy rate?” These statistics are correct… and there are some important reminders (lessons) that impact how we interact with people as leaders and how far people are willing to go to serve you. Here are just a few of the things that come to mind:

  1. Understand, you can’t possibly understand…

Living and visiting third world countries on a regular basis throughout most of my life, I am more aware than most of cultural diversity and the impact it has within a single culture, much less a wider application. In Haiti, I was reminded that because I live within my own paradigms, I can never fully understand the plight of those outside of them. Despite seeing poverty in its most extreme, I have never been that poor….despite witnessing oppression at its worst, I have never really been oppressed…No matter how much, as global leaders we would like to think we understand, chances are we are just not equipped to comprehend the complexity and diversity that resides within our global organizations.  The myriad of cultural challenges our diverse global communities present, only serves to remind us that while we can certainly learn and understand general orientations and respect and value others worldviews, we can not fully understand individual people by observing from a physical or psychological level.  The diversity and complexity of those individuals is shaped not only by their culture, but by their life experiences and  the dozens of values, thousands of attitudes and tens of thousands of beliefs that continually evolve throughout a lifetime. As global leaders, where we can be effective is through active listening, understanding that there is more than one “best way”,  and having the capacity to facilitate the blending of the best of all cultural elements to make the whole more than the sum of the parts.

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