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There is just so much to learn from traveling. Although there is just as much to see in our own cities (after all, every day there are tourists who are getting the very same lessons and leisure in our own town as we long for by going to visit theirs), it simply seems easier to keep our eyes and hearts open when we travel. With no regular routines to keep us occupied and no "Mr. Smith, you have a very important call on the other line" to interrupt us from our thoughts, we are free to observe.

There are a few things to remember from each trip and one that I learned in Egypt was a lesson in "give a little thing extra" hospitality. Now, there are a lot of things one might not like about Egypt. The pyramids have turned into a tourist trap with hundreds of smooth-talking Egyptians offering camel rides, horse rides, and a whole host of trinkets. Cairo is huge. Nobody really knows how big, the estimates are 10 million to 17 million people. Although it escapes me how you could lose count of a few million people here and there, spending a few minutes in the Cairo market made it more likely to understand.

Cairo is dirty. It makes you cough and in many places the smell seems almost unbearable. Cairo is loud - how loud I realized only after arriving back to England and enjoying the silence on the freeways. No loud horns, no donkey carriages filling up the roads.

Egypt certainly is a different, very different world. There was an odd absence of pictures of female fashion models on billboards. There was an odd absence of women on the streets of Cairo - the number of men always seemed to outnumber the women by a factor of 10. The only prevalent female billboard image was that of Cindy Crawford's face, with her hair carefully pulled back so that she looked almost Egyptian. The ad was selling vacuum cleaners.

A different world, perhaps, but there is an endearing Egyptian ability to go beyond anything expected when it comes to service and hospitality. Our first cab driver, using his self-taught English skills, turned into a tourist guide along the way. He gave us a story behind every mosque and monument we passed, taught us a few Arabic words and phrases, and never failed to smile. If you have ever seen the joy of a dog greeting its owner, you might get the image of happiness we encountered everywhere we went. At breakfast, the entire wait staff lined up along the hallway to smile at us and welcome us for our meal. Those smiles did not leave the waiters' faces at any point.

Cairo is sunny and hot. Time by the hotel pool was a wonderful refreshment - and it became even more so when a smiling gentleman showed up by our chairs with a plate full of cut honeydew melons and a "this is a little something to appreciate our guests, would you like a piece?" question. This happened a number of times - each time with enough unpredictability to feel the excitement of surprise worthy of opening a Christmas present. An offer of tea, a little piece of chocolate, a "this is how you make papyrus paper" demo. Always something extra, unexpected.

Perhaps the most touching "extra" was the Egyptians' pride in what they have. A cab driver with a 30-year old car patched together by duct tape and pieces of carpet would open the door with a smile indicating we were about to step inside a Cadillac. No shame of lack to be seen.

I think we have something to learn - about having pride in what we have and who we are. And, about giving that "little extra" to our loved ones, clients - even strangers.

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"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."
Helen Keller


Some of us are in "official" leadership positions - managers, coaches, executives. Many of us are in less official but just as obvious leadership positions - parents, for example. All of us are in less obvious and very unofficial leadership positions by the very fact of our existence. How we explain a task to a coworker, how we negotiate with a friend regarding what movie to see, how we treat anyone.

In teaching seminars to managers, it has struck me how most of us seem to have a "this is how I lead" style, rather than a "this is how this situation requires me to lead" style. We step into a role we enjoy playing, and believe that role applies to all situations. Not quite true.

Chris Irwin, a Canadian horse whisperer and author of "Horses Don't Lie" (http://www.chrisirwin.com) had taught me one thing about leadership: "With horses, you need trust AND respect. Without one or the other, the horse won't see you as a leader worth following. You develop trust by being nice, you develop respect by being firm. If the horse is being good, you reward. If the horse is acting up, you need to be firm - for the horse's sake, even if you are uncomfortable with it." When I first heard this, it didn't go with my "but I am a nice person" image. Now I understand his wisdom.

How much freedom versus how many structures and guidelines should depend less on what we are comfortable with, and more on what the situation requires. People with less experience need more guidance and structure, people with more experience and expertise need more freedom and feedback-only-thank-you-very-much, for example. A McDonald's restaurant with a "I'm a nice person and only guide through listening" manager will get worse results than the "There is work to be done, Mary you do this, John you do that" management style. In an engineering firm, the opposite would apply. Same with friends, children, pets, partners, clients, parents. When they look to us for leadership, let's stop and use the style that will help THEM grow the best!

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"You don't stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing."
Michael Pritchard


Not so long ago, during the Vancouver four-month-long bus strike, I heard of a girl who decided to go on hunger strike to support resolving the bus strike. As I listened to the story, something struck me as oddly applicable to all of us.

Apparently, it is possible to live for 30 days on juice, water and coffee (I did not know coffee would be included as an essential ingredient!), but after 30 days irreversible damage starts to happen to internal muscles. So what, you ask? Well, the interesting thing is that, apparently, the person on a hunger strike only feels hungry for the first few days, then only feels tired.

How many of us have denied our desires for something important, only to find that after a while, we no longer feel the desire but only feel somewhat strangely numb? If you have ever worked in a job that is wrong for you and denied your desire for a job that would fire you up, you know what I am talking about. If you have longed for a loving relationship and settled for loneliness or an abusive situation, you know it only hurts badly at first. But the spark has left your eyes and heart even when you say you are just fine.

Hunger for food, just as our hunger for our heart's desires to be fulfilled, is an important indicator of what we need to be fully alive. Let's feel the hunger and keep searching for the food that will satisfy the body, the heart and the soul!

"Success doesn't come to you...you go to it."
Marva Collins


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"We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are."
Anais Nin






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