Does lighting strike the same spot twice? What's the likelihood of an endorsement of your role in under fourteen days? Who determines your role in the bigger scheme of things? I had a few questions after it all unfolded.
Traveling all the way to India from my native Trinidad and Tobago was something to look forward to. It was going to be a special occasion of mixing academic learning with cultural exchange and a melting pot of minds awaited me at our institution of higher learning. I was also in recovery from a terrible bout of cold and was looking forward to healing in a new space, among new hearts, minds and spirits. There was something prophetic about how this trip unfolded and I was to honour it all.
The first day of class, we had all of the expected formalities, meeting "strangers" who would become my colleagues; my new peers, coaches and each other's classmates for the next two weeks. A new global village in a new space.
The world came together in this classroom and in many ways, it was as if my destiny was once again to be a piece of the global puzzle that was going to be put together during our daily learning and exchanges.
On the first day, my colleague Mikhail from Russia appointed me as the class "Captain". This sentiment was endorsed by our colleague Dev from Mauritius and then further by Ramil, our respected colleague from Azerbaijan.
I had been called over to the desk and it was announced "so you're going to be our Captain" to which I hesitated but then graciously and quickly accepted, understanding the enormous role and the responsibility that was now on my shoulders. Responsibility to guiding what would now be our new teams of 27 colleagues from 13 countries and cultures. Colleagues who collectively mastered over 50 languages and dialects. I was also the only native English speaker, knowing a bit of French and Spanish allowed be to feel partially able to have a comfortable interaction with my peers from Chile, Seychelles, Mauritius and my peer from Azerbaijan who spent time being educated in Belgium - what a formidable experience this was going to become for me as their Captain. An honour that I had to live up to.
Our program was to epitomize the same challenge as the title suggested embodying Leadership and a Public/Private engagement and so I was getting into my role to enhance the learning experience on an Experiential level.
The next two weeks that followed, saw me in my Captaincy role - organizing activities - all humbling actions, all types, leading presentations, leading smaller groups, making decisions on behalf of my cohort and being the valedictorian - even leading the dance, festivity and party activities.
My Captaincy allowed me to create alliances, develop new meanings to leadership, embrace new ideas and most of all, give others a chance to learn and to teach - empower my already very capable peers in a space of academic and social learning.
How exceptional my new role of Captaincy was going to be.....once in a lifetime and without prior awareness of this innate characteristic and way beyond my prior intention, this bestowing of such a huge hat meant I had to be able to see the capacity in each of my peers and ensure that they maximized every opportunity. It was also to become an integral part of my healing and my learning. India was to become my restorative place. They appointed me!
By the culmination of our program, we had become a family and I felt my role had been well accepted by my peers, who in their sincerity were all very supportive and all well built to keep our camaraderie intact. From in-class negotiation, to shopping events, to peers making negotiation with the rickshaw drivers, to helping each other navigate the incredibly busy streets of Hyderabad, to get from one side to the other, safely and together. There was a family atmosphere beyond measure and I took no credit but felt it was our natural ability to harmoniously integrate and make life a balance of friendship, work, learning, teaching and understanding our similarities beyond our borders.
But what was to unfold beyond our departure from Hyderabad, to our respective homes on the last day of our training, was not to be underestimated. I was now made to sit up, pay attention, acknowledge and accept this role wholeheartedly. And this is where it gets to be very interesting.
The flight from Hyderabad to Abu Dhabi was in the wee hours of the morning and the weather was tumultuous. The seatbelt lights were left on for the full flight and all safety announcements continued to recommend staying seated and fastened. I was glued to my seat, and as much as I usually embrace and welcome a turbulent journey, this one was scary. It was not without reassurance from my seat mates who were heading to London for work in their tech business. We ignited conversation to wile away the rough passage and it was not without many exchanged smiles that we automatically became friends en route to our destinations. Me to my home, which I had not seen in fourteen days, me with memories that were filled with bliss and joy, me sadly leaving some truly divine bonds of friendship and memories with the hopes to meet again soon.
But on the landing of the flight into Abu Dhabi, it was disappointing for me to discover that no one had applauded this capable Captain, who in my humble estimation, kept his team together, left no one uninformed, shared the responsibility, took full charge and allowed us all a safe and smooth landing on solid ground.
I was now discussing this with my seat mates and told them I would see them in the terminal, as I had some very important business to take care of - that of personally applauding the Captain on behalf of all the passengers who were probably too shy, scared, hurried or relieved to notice we had arrived.
As I headed towards o the purser to ask permission, she welcomed me to approach the flight deck, where I introduced myself to Captain Mendelsohn. He immediately sat me down and placed his hat on my head! It was an awakening and it was a humbling moment. I was immediately reminded of my recent Captaincy of less than fifteen days but it now made me recognize way more about my team who had empowered me to secure their journey.
They entrusted me and empowered me. They had given me their learning engagement to steward and to secure. They had build trust without and before even knowing who I was or where I had come from. They had an innate sense that I would take them safely to the final destination. Captain Mendelsohn subtly but symbolically put things into perspective for me. This flight was not only to return me to my domicile, this flight was to endorse my role and to make me a Captain - Twice!
In life and in our journeys of Servant Leadership, we cannot sum up our purpose, we do not need applause but we can learn from what we are given to hold or wear by others. I wear the hat of Captaincy with pride and respect for those who have empowered me along life's journey. My gratitude abounds. My experience on Etihad flight EY275 taught me this lesson effectively. I continue to fly so I can learn how to serve, lead, mentor, share and consciously contribute. Shaping the future narratives of our global village requires conscious collaborators. Thanks to my peers and to Captain Mendelsohn.
This post was submitted in response to Share Your Story On Any Topic.