How Your Next Road Trip Can Make You A Better Leader (infographic)

There are lessons to be learned from almost any experience in life, and this includes your next road trip. Traveling from one destination to another takes planning, time, and a whole lot of patience as you make you way from point A to point B. No road trip is without complications, whether it’s the route you take or the people you’re traveling with.

Finding ways to make your road trip a success no matter what happens requires some practical skills – skills that can be translated into lessons from the road. And these lessons can be applied to leadership and the way you lead yourself and others.

Here are 8 practical lessons for leadership that you can learn from your next road trip:

1. Have a Final Destination/Goal

Before you can set out on your road trip, you’ll need to know where you’re going. Having a final destination is your motivating guide for the entire trip. Whether it’s a short drive to a nearby city or a long road trip that spans the country, you’ll have a destination and goal that you’re aiming for.

Here’s how: before any road trip, ask yourself where you’re going – what’s the end point of your journey? When you have a final destination, keeping that end point in mind will help you break down your trip into manageable milestones.

The same concept can be applied to your job and career. Leadership is all about having a clear vision of the goal so you can stay motivated and on track. A successful leader is able to set goals, share these goals with the team, and plan all of the steps along the way.

2. Planning

When you know where you’re going, it’s time to plan your road trip so you’re fully prepared to reach your final destination. Your plan should include a map, timelines, and checkpoints along the way. How much gas will you need? Where will you stop to eat and sleep? What sights do you want to see? These questions are all part of your road trip plan. Having the answers clearly outlined is going to make your trip both enjoyable and successful.

The same can be said for leadership – you’ll need to organize a plan and put it into action. A leader is able to see the entire picture and stay motivated and on track. This means putting building blocks into your project plan that include tasks and milestones for the team as a whole and for each individual member. Tasks have to be accomplished before your team reaches the final destination while the milestones let everyone know when these tasks need to be completed.

3. Adapting the Route When Needed

Any road trip is going to face obstacles along the way. Road closures, bad weather and road conditions, or car trouble. None of these roadblocks are planned for and yet they happen all the time. A good traveler knows that it’s important to get the trip back on track and not let these problems affect the outcome of the trip. This means being adaptable and flexible and accepting that some things may need to change for the outcome of the trip to be a victory.

The same lack of control happens in your job and career – no plan happens without some modification and adjustment. The leadership lesson to take away from unpredictability is to react quickly and smartly. Keep your team informed of the options and work with them to implement the next action plan.

4. Effective Communication

Hitting the road is all about engaging with family or friends, with everyone communicating and being on the same page about where you’re going and what you’re doing. But there’s no doubt that things can get a little stressful, particularly when you’re on a long road trip. Bathroom breaks, where to stop for dinner, and whether you have time to stop at a viewpoint can all become frustrating and annoying issues. One way to deal with these conflicts is to have open communication both before and during the trip.

Just as on a road trip, leaders face their own challenges with any team. Interpersonal conflicts and miscommunication happen all the time. It’s knowing how to lead through these problems that makes a leader effective. Clearly communicate goals and expectations. Make sure you allow team members to have a turn to speak as well and listen actively to what they’re saying. Effective communication is key to a successful road trip or for accomplishing a goal.

5. Practice Patience

Your road trip across the country may have started out with a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm. But driving long distances takes time and can become frustrating and trying as the miles slowly pass by. A good way to deal with this is to understand the frustration and focus on being patient. Push through these feelings by remembering why you embarked on your road trip in the first place. Just go with the flow of what’s happening – switch seats with a passenger and let someone else drive. Or make an unplanned stop and take a short walk, regrouping and finding your motivation once again.

Successful leaders are just as patient and fluid as travelers in how they manage their team. Sometimes leading, sometimes following, but always practicing patience as they lead their team through each process and task without showing their frustration.

6. Welcome New Cultures and Experiences

One of the great things about a road trip is meeting people and being exposed to different cultures and experiences. You get more out of your trip when you talk to the locals and get to know them – where can you find the best cup of coffee? What’s the story behind one of their historical monuments? These are the questions that will immerse you in the culture and get you completely involved on your trip.

This diversity of culture and ideas that you encounter on a road trip can be used as yet another lesson for leadership. Teams that are diverse can be more productive – they have the input of different cultures to draw from. Effective leadership is all about recognizing that cultural diversity opens a team up to new and exciting ideas.

7. Collaborative Teamwork

A road trip is all about teamwork. Deciding what to see, what roads to take, and taking a turn behind the wheel all help to make your trip fun and rewarding. While one person may be the leader who takes the key role in determining everyone’s common goals, it’s this teamwork that is going to get you safely and happily to your final destination.

The same happens at work. Without team input it’s difficult to be productive and reach the end goal. A collaborative leader is one who takes the time to build relationships within the team and encourage everyone to do their part. If you want to get results and reach that final destination, collaborative teamwork is going to get you there much quicker than if you’re leading solely on your own.

8. Taking the Wrong Turn

Despite planning and having complete confidence in your GPS, wrong turns happen. Not just on the road – forgetting to gas up at the last town, running out of wiper fluid, or even choosing the wrong place to eat – these are all problems that are going to test your ability as road trip leader. The best thing you can do is admit to the wrong turn and learn from your mistake. The next time you’ll check the map before taking the wrong route and you’ll remember to get gas before driving miles to the next fill-up point.

Great leaders handle their mistakes in the same way. They acknowledge the mistake and learn from it. After all, it’s only by making an error that we’re able to prevent making the same mistake again. Leadership means accepting the risk of trying new things. And admitting when these new ideas don’t work. Once leaders have owned up to a mistake, they can teach the rest of the team what they’ve learned, which builds good communication and trust. After that, it’s time to use the mistake as a stepping-stone and move forward.

Final Thoughts

Use the experiences you encounter on the road as lessons and guidelines to becoming a better leader at work. Road trips and travel are great opportunities to build up your leadership skills. On the road, things rarely ever go entirely as planned – unforeseen circumstances will always pop up along the way.

The same can be said about your career and role as a leader. Although you may have a solid idea of what you want to accomplish, not everything will go as planned. Use your road trip skills to become a better leader, whether you’re applying leadership concepts to yourself or are leading a team and working with colleagues. You’ll learn very quickly that if you want your road trip or career to be rewarding and successful, you’ll need to put on your leadership hat.

8 Leadership Lessons Learned from the Road

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