Would you do an activity that led you to lose perspective so much that you couldn't tell the difference?
This article is about values, the most important foundation of leadership, business, and relationships, or close to it. It's about you doing things you would fire your CFO for.
Travel leads to confusing values this much by nearly everyone who travels a lot. I'll write about its effects on the environment, but it similarly distorts our views on time, relationships, distance, and more. We business people travel more than most, meaning you're susceptible to your values becoming corrupted.
For example, The New York Times' 10 Ways to Be a Greener Traveler, Even if You Love to Fly confuses values so much it suggests closing your laptop lid compares to how much traveling pollutes. Hint to the Times: laptops use so much less power than a jet taking off that they are qualitatively different--in other words, negligible. Besides, you can close the lid without traveling, so it's irrelevant.
I've talked to a lot of people who travel and they all say similar things. They have no idea how much they pollute--and prefer to stay ignorant. Flying across country puts more than two tons of CO2 into the atmosphere--like driving 7,500 miles. First class more than doubles how much you pollute.
Businesspeople commonly take dozens of flights per year. They know they're heating the globe, but prefer to forget it, or telling themselves lies. Grown adults have told me that planes aren't bad because some day there may be solar planes, which has nothing to do with the pollution from the flight they paid for. The New York Times, in the article above, suggested electronic tickets instead of paper might offset the damage of flying.
How can businesspeople tolerate such innumeracy? You would fire a CFO who said "We lost $100 million last year but it's okay because we implemented a healthy food option in the cafeteria, so no need for change."
Why do we tolerate it in ourselves?
As leaders, how can we ignore our responsibility our actions's results on others? What is integrity if not to consider it, even if others don't see?
What can you do about it?
I already wrote how great leaders figure out ways to do their jobs even when they can't travel. Sometimes they do them better.
Besides using an exploding number of tools to work remotely without traveling, you can find the values in not staying local. This article, Stay the Hell Home!, which begins "For a year, I stayed within 100 miles of my house. It's the best decision I ever made," shows how values return to your local community when you don't default to traveling so much.
This article, My Year Without Flying, begins "I've stayed on the ground, to help fight climate change. Here's what happened,"which included, "Slower travel makes me appreciate where I am" and "For me, quitting flying is just another choice that brings me closer to living a life that's in line with what I believe."
A surprisingly easy and effective solution is in America's Best Leader Doesn't Waste Time in Airports. Why Are You?: She just doesn't travel and, as a great leader, solves problems and serves locally, still getting a lot done.
Other solutions include:
- Training someone there to do what you would do (in the process focusing on local things you could impact more)
- Simply delegating to someone local
- Focusing on a local deal with lower costs
- You can think of many others
Notice that these solutions tend to promote growth in your team, decentralization, delegation, and focusing on your local business--changes that help most organization. At the same time you don't lose time, money, and other resources to trave
Leaders face facts and make hard decisions
Leaders do difficult things. If you've had to fire someone, you probably found honesty and clear action the best policy, not sweeping the problem under the rug.
Many people do the opposite about travel.
If you've told yourself, "the plane was going to fly anyway," you chose to ignore the laws of supply and demand. You lowered your self awareness.
If you've told yourself, "other people travel more, what I do isn't as bad," you chose to dismiss your personal responsibility. What do you think of employees who do so?
If you've said, "it's not that big a deal, the scientists aren't sure," you chose to ignore that there is no more debate about global warming and how it will hurt people.
If you lead or aspire to, be aware of the sweet little lies you tell yourself if you choose the perks of travel for work or vacation. When you do, you'll develop empathy and compassion for the people affected by your decision, self-awareness of your thoughts and emotions, integrity between your values and action, and probably new discoveries about your local community and what you can do that's healthier for yourself and others.