On a warm evening recently, seventeen Canadians and two Singaporean folks gathered in the lobby of the Intersur Recoleta Hotel in downtown Buenos Aires. Following their farewell dinner, they’d gathered to say their goodbyes and recognize Jorge, or George as he suggested some may wish to call him.
For the majority of the tour group, the next day would start with a very early morning wake-up call for the flight to Lima, Peru. However, Jorge wouldn’t be leading them on the next part of their South American vacation odyssey, as his part of the bigger leadership job was done – and, done exceptionally well. Over the previous 10 days he’d been the guide on this tour’s excellent adventure, opening the eyes and their ears of the diverse group to the wonder and beauty and the unabashed charm of Chile and Argentina.
Upon greeting everyone in Santiago, and spending a couple of days visiting the cultural, political, and religious highlights of Latin America’s host to the 2023 Pan American Games, Jorge led the team to the southern-most region of Patagonia and Punta Arenas, for five, jam-packed days. Through his outstanding storytelling, which was sprinkled with just enough contextual background, he made the tour one which will not soon be forgotten. The group won’t soon forget the sheep-shearing escapade and Patagonia barbeque. Or the visit to Los Glacieres National Park and its breath-taking waterfalls. Or El Califate, with its Jasper-like vistas and to-die-for restaurants. Or, finally, the spectacular Perito Merino Glacier. Or Jorge himself.
Jorge is a humorous, thirty-something Argentinian. He is a freelancing tour guide and believes his country’s seat of government, with its rich history and unfulfilled potential, is nothing short of magic. In fact, he made it clear to all on more than one occasion, that ‘God is everywhere, but his head office is in Buenos Aires.’ His inspiration was contagious and it bridged the occasional monotony of the long bus rides over the expansive Patagonia landscape.
He has a wife who works in Argentina’s growing Malbec wine industry. Together they have a little girl who’s already stolen her daddy’s heart as evidenced by the countless photos he has saved on his phone. His chosen profession sees Jorge on the road from 10-15 days every month squiring various tour groups throughout Latin America and beyond. In fact, a recent junket saw him lead a John Deere management delegation to a three-city United States tour beginning in Las Vegas, and continuing on to Chicago and New York.
As a leader, Jorge is a perfect example of mindfulness and knowing his WHY. His attention to detail is masterful, whether describing the reclamation of famed Evita Peron’s remains from Italy to its final resting place in the La Recoleta cemetery; or while giving instructions as to how and what we should order as our meal at the Buenos Aires Tango Show. Consistently, he had the uncommon ability to guide with precision, yet not to the point of stifling one’s curiosity or creating a sense that their question may be out of order. He began his explanations with the WHY, versus the how, giving the listener a clear understanding of the significance and relevance of what we were looking at or the importance of his direction.
The group marveled at his skill in staying in the moment. He continuously scanned the room and his environment, searching for anyone ‘in- his-charge’ who just may be straying physically, or may be exhibiting characteristics which said that information-overload may be creeping into their picture. Over the course of the team’s 10 days, he shared his attention equally with all members of the group, understanding that their focus and satisfaction were a direct function of feeling safe and having a sense of belonging. His breadth and depth as an adept conversationalist – including listening, questioning, and his non-verbal gestures – provided the opportunity for him to engage each person on a wide variety of topics.
He led with discretion and by example, demonstrating that people will usually go where they wish to be led, and that no job was too big or too small for him. His casual demeanor, servant leadership, and patient approach to matters gave everyone a feeling of being in competent and calm hands.
And, so, we gathered together in the lobby of the hotel to genuinely express our gratitude to our guide, wish him well, and present him with a small token of our appreciation. Our adventure had been rich and was a tribute to his unique style of beta leadership.
As expected, he was humbled by the moment and gracious in accepting his gift. He applauded the group and quickly resumed his leadership responsibilities by checking the group’s itineraries and arrangements for their early morning departure to Lima. For Jorge, leadership doesn’t end just because his immediate responsibilities are over.