Leadership & Hospitality: Welcome Stranger is Guest

We vacationed this summer on an island nestled on a remote lake in Maine. Guests had their own cottages and the lodge was the only location to access Wi-Fi. I had no phone service whatsoever.

However, what I did have – we all had – was an abundance of hospitality from staff and guests alike.

At breakfast and dinner, we dined together on the outdoor porch, overlooking the rocky lake ledge trimmed with flowers, frothing water and pine. Otherwise, we’d meet on the dock, swimming or kayaking in the lake, hiking up a mountain or under the spectacular northern stars.

Establishing Commonality

Commonality was established in the moment: The shy son giggling and playing pranks while his parents beamed at his exuberance. A teenage son fired up about the release of his first CD, and his sister eager to begin her freshman year in submarine engineering.

Or the hikes to avoid with achy knees and where to spot the moose.

We blended easily, readily, and happily.

Remarkably, I never once heard a discussion on politics. There seemed an unspoken agreement to leave the labels behind – back on shore, stuffed in our cars on the mainland.

Leaving the Labels to Welcome Hospitality

And that, I believe, is the secret to hospitality.

Leaving the labels behind to engage in curiosity and shared values.

It is a recipe for success, whether we’re gathered together in the board room, staff room or even, the holiday table.

To be hospitable (as defined by Webster and Merriam dictionary) includes: Receiving one as a guest – friendly, kind and solicitous to guests – favoring the health, growth, comfort of new arrivals – readily receptive – and open, hospitable, to new ideas.

Leadership and Hospitality

Leadership also necessitates the practice of hospitality – the act of welcoming strangers – strangeness – differences – as guests at our table.

This requires a genuine curiosity, active listening and the intention to establish commonality. And the outcome? It's often awesome as a collective creativity and innovation emerge.

Senator John McCain was a leader known for his skills in creating commonality.

In an NPR interview (August 27, 2018), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) talked about meeting McCain at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She'd been the pilot of a shot down, Black Hawk helicopter and lost her legs in the attack.

Finding Our Shared Values

The interviewer asked Senator Duckworth about the obvious policy differences between her and Senator McCain.

Duckworth responded that McCain was “inordinately kind” and this made it “easy to handle any differences.” She continued that he, like her, loved his country more than anything. As a result, they found the common ground to pass legislation to benefit the veteran community.

Returning to the guests and our Maine vacation, I wonder how might we interact together in a Board room or a poltical discussion? I know I’d be inclined to listen more thoughtfully to their opinions – and I suspect they would do the same for me.

A Call for Leadership and Hospitality

Calling leadership and hospitality to our tables – to our staff meetings, board meetings, community meetings and congressional meetings:

🙏🏾May we receive one another as guests.

🙏🏼May we be hospitable to new ideas – others and our own.

🙏May we have the courage and commitment to embrace diversity with curiosity and kindness.

🙏🏽May we find solutions through a community of discovery.

May we open our hearts and minds to the healing intention and transformation of hospitality.

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