Ambassador Travel Journal: Cultivating a Culture of Leadership
Erin Abbott is a Noonday Ambassador who recently traveled to Peru with a group of her fellow Ambassadors to meet the Artisans she advocates for through her Noonday business. While there, Erin discovered something entirely unexpected — while she had never considered herself a natural leader, we are all qualified to lead. All it takes is compassion and a vision.
“True leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.”
Noonday Collection Director of Ambassador Development
Me with Maria, one of Noonday’s Artisan Business Partners in Peru
“Me? A Leader?”
The realization of my leadership potential hit me in Peru. I was standing in a conference room, listening to Maria tell the story of the Artisan Business she runs with 14 of my fellow Noonday Ambassadors. As she began to speak, I frantically located the “notes” app on my iPhone. I needed to record this stuff. What Maria was sharing was the essence of leadership, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be so moved by the ideas she was sharing.
Being a Noonday Collection Ambassador is full of perks. Beautiful jewelry, trips around the world to visit Artisans, up-to-date styling tips, and a tribe that will stand behind me no matter what. I didn’t join the Ambassador community with the expectation that anyone would inspire me to create a culture of leadership. I just signed on with the intention of changing the world, not myself.
But as Maria began speaking about the importance of leadership, I was mesmerized. She started off by sharing a stunning video about the Artisan Entrepreneurs her Artisan Business supports. Two of those Entrepreneurs are Juan and Fermin, both of whom craft exclusive Noonday Collection pieces. It was obvious that these two Peruvians were proud of their craftsmanship and country. But Maria and her team had shown them that in order to continue on with their craft, they were going to have to lead, not follow. They have helped Juan and Fermin grow their impact by scaling their businesses to create work for even more people in their communities.
Spending time in Juan’s workshop, where he trains and empowers others
What Leadership Looks Like
To the root, leadership should be an investment in people, not product. It should ask, “What do YOU need,” not “How can you serve ME.” With this type of leadership, Juan and Fermin allow customers to feel connected to their country and product while empowering everyone who works with them to flourish. I would use all of these words to describe our Artisan Partners in Peru: transparent, excellent quality, efficient, inventive, creative and technological. But I think Fermin summed up the culture of leadership in his workshop best:
“You can have machines, but people are people. People are better.”
Fermin and his wife Madelyn, who is his right-hand in the workshop
Along the same lines, I love this quote from Randy Stocklin, the co-founder and CEO of One Click Ventures: “Leadership is the ability to help people achieve things they don’t think are possible. Leaders are coaches with a passion for developing people, not players; they get satisfaction from achieving objectives through others. Leaders inspire people through shared vision and create an environment where people feel valued and fulfilled.”
Leadership Comes to Life
Standing in the Artisan Business’ conference room in Peru, taking notes on my phone, words like “collaboration” and “value” came to life for me. I looked around the room and saw that Noonday Collection leaders Karen Gibbs and Travis Wilson were absorbing Maria’s words too.
Travis, Noonday’s President and Co-CEO, with Maria
Just like our Artisan Business Partners here in Peru, Noonday Collection has created a culture of leadership. When your leaders see you bigger than you see yourself, you know you are in the right place. And if the overall vision is to empower, it’s certain that BIG things are going to happen.
Spending time with and learning from Karen (Noonday’s leader of Artisan Development) and Travis was a highlight of my trip
I walked away from that conference room with the same exact skill set I had when I entered. It was nothing special. And yet, I left knowing that willing leaders, like Maria and the leadership at Noonday, had a vision that included me as a leader. Because to make a real and lasting impact, we have to inspire others to action, not just act ourselves. My motivation to drive my Noonday business began as an endeavor to change the world, but now it was becoming clear to me that “the world” included ME!
Since I am new to the culture of leadership, I’m in the process of researching and learning all I can. So far, I’ve collected information that has already been modeled for me by Noonday Collection and our Artisan Partners abroad. My research has given me words and repeatable steps to participate in this process.
Here is what I have learned (so far) in the way of creating a culture of leadership:
1. We are always greater than the sum of our parts. At Noonday Collection we say we are #bettertogether, because it’s actually true!
2. Always ask about a person’s LIFE vision. Who is the person you want to become? How do you want to contribute? What are your long-term goals for this partnership?
3. Appreciation is much more powerful than money, title or incentive. People never forget how you made them feel.
4. It’s more important to be interested, than interesting. Don’t make this about YOU.
My fellow Peruvian travelers and Ambassador sisters
“Who Will You Be?”
For me, this revelation that I have the ability to contribute to a culture of leadership will play out first among the Noonday Ambassadors on my team who I coach. I want to encourage more, ask them about WHO they want to be, brainstorm long-term goals, and dream the impossible with them. But these actionable steps don’t just apply to my business—I’ve realized that they can also be lived out in my everyday life.
When people feel valued, things get done. Simple as that.
My travels to Peru revealed to me that a culture of leadership is something we can all curate. It doesn’t take a special personality to be a leader. It just takes a common, everyday someone with a passion for their vision. Once they make that vision known, it becomes contagious. And then it is up to you (or me) to foster a place for leaders to take shape—and change the world together!