Leadership Lessons from Florence, Italy

Tour Guide or Travel Agent, Part I

Recently, I returned from vacation where my husband and I had the opportunity to spend time with our son and his wife, who are stationed in Germany.

Samuele 081615

It was the first time we had seen them in more than a year.

We spent a wonderful week cruising the Western Mediterranean. This is the first of several posts on leadership lessons learned from tour guides during our cruise.

While we were in the port of Florence, Italy, we did what most tourist do – booked excursions to experience the highlights of the area. Each day we boarded a bus with a new tour guide, who would spend the day sharing their knowledge and expertise.

We met our guide, Samuele, as we boarded the bus in our first port of call, Florence, Italy. Upon greeting Samuele I was quickly reminded of a leadership questioned posed by John Maxwell. In his book Developing the Leaders Around You, Maxwell asks if we want a leader who was a travel agent or a tour guide.

So what is the difference between a travel agent and a tour guide? A travel agent will arrange your trip based on the travelers specifications. They book airfare, arrange excursions, and make reservations. A seasoned travel agent will anticipate potential problems and minimize their impact on your trip. They are a critical component in the success of your trip; however they don’t travel with you. Travel agents manage resources and try to minimize change.

A tour guide, like a travel agents, also manage resources. They arrange transportation, purchase the tickets, and map out a travel route. However, unlike a travel agent, the tour guide will travel with you. Based on their experience and knowledge, a tour guide takes travelers on a journey they have been on to experience the area.

According to Maxwell, there are two types of leaders: the travel agent, who sends people to their destination and the tour guide, who takes people to their destinations.

Leaders tell but never teach until they practice what they preach”
– V. J. Featherstone

Leaders set the example for followers. The Law of the Picture states people do what people see (Maxwell, 2007).

Which type of leader are you, a travel agent or a tour guide?

Your friend,


Dr. Kim Moore

Kim d. moore

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