Travel and Multiple Narratives
A bit of reading between the lines on the blog over the past couple of weeks, and you might recognize that we’ve been traveling. One aspect of our work is to serve people who are working cross-culturally, particularly in Southeast Asia. We make a trip similar to this one twice per year. It’s a long 3-4 weeks of airports and airplanes, questionable coffee, lots of heat (in the air in and in the food), and fascinating people.
Today marks the beginning of the end of this trip. We’re wrapping up in Myanmar and are on a plane home Thursday afternoon.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been doing this work has to do with narrative.
There is always more than one.
We can sit with a person, or a couple, or a family with our assumptions. We assume to understand. To know what they’re going through. To relate.
But then people do surprising things.
Life takes unanticipated twists and turns. (For them and for us.)
There are previously unknown details on which we made assumptions. The details are important. The assumptions are wrong.
We start all over again.
Leadership is about listening and learning way more than it is about a title on a door or a corner office. Leaders (real leaders) don’t require a position in order to do their work.
What’s necessary is the ability to learn. To hear a narrative, recognizing that there is always more than one.
One of my all-time favorite TED talks is “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She’s a novelist who understands this aspect of leadership in a profound way.
I encourage you to take a moment to listen and learn from her. This principle applies to every human interaction where we might be tempted to come to conclusions or pass judgment. From self-talk to cross-cultural leadership to online interaction to simple road rage.
There’s another narrative. There is never a single story.
And it’s actually dangerous when we begin to think there is.
Three more days of being with people doing what I believe to be some of the most important work in the world.