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What Can Panama City Teach Austin About Leadership?

Special to HT Staffing Blog

By Nad Elias

The answer to that question: everything. I just returned from the EO Global Leadership Conference in Panama City, Panama, where I learned just how small our global economy is when it comes to principles and values we all strive for, regardless of business size or location.

Panama City pulled out all the stops to welcome entrepreneurs from all over the globe to explore its historic ambition and forward-thinking innovation. If you’re not sure what “pulling out the stops” looks like, it’s this: The President of Panama, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal, served as the keynote speaker. And when it comes to entrepreneurship, Martinelli had a lot to say. He cut his teeth in the business world as president and director of the board of a supermarket chain and founded two other companies before dedicating his life to politics.

No better city could have served as a backdrop for an intense few days of learning how to redefine innovation and success. With its infamous canal, Panama is the epitome of business ingenuity and persistence beyond all odds. More than 27,000 people died during construction of the canal, which still operates in the same way it did in 1914. It’s a true engineering marvel – one that revolutionized global business. Yet, how is the country fairing in a modern world of air travel and digital commodities? Remarkably well. Panama is poised for a major business renaissance as it opens a second major access channel in 2014, doubling the maximum size ship that can pass, as well as dramatically cutting wait times.

In addition to learning how Panama City is harkening a new era of business prosperity, there was much to be learned from other fellow entrepreneurs from around the world. Two major themes emerged as surprising commonalities. First, business owners from around the globe are looking for ways to become “servant leaders.” In line with my recent blog post on the benefits of hiring humble executives, business leaders from Saudi Arabia to Oklahoma are looking for ways to lead from behind, supporting employees by empowering others. Second, there is a common desire around the world to find “ultimate happiness” by balancing professional and personal life. How fascinating and comforting that – with our work and home lives so seemingly different across the globe – we all strive for a similar ideal of work/life balance?

My heartfelt thanks and congratulations go to EO (the Entrepreneurs’ Organization) for organizing these events. Each one reduces the perceivable size of the world while expanding the imaginations of business leaders.

Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons