There was no announcement. No one gave instructions.
At 11:00 pm one moment people were milling around the airport gate, the next moment the group was trailing after a surly ticketing agent. We ran to catch up with the group and word filtered back to us through the few English-speakers in the crowd: stay with the group and the agent would get us on a bus to hotel.
I was with my partner, Karin, and her son Sebastian in the Curacao airport, trying to return to the United States. Our flight had been cancelled in the middle of the night and neither of us speaks Papiamento – the local language.
As we rushed to keep up with the group of passengers who were also on our cancelled flight, we tried unsuccessfully to locate our checked luggage. Then we had to pass through immigration. The agent stopped us and asked us to complete their immigration forms.
None of the other passengers had to complete these forms because they were leaving from Curacao while we were just trying to catch a connecting flight. The other passengers rushed through and left us with the immigration agent.
We didn’t have our luggage, were stuck in immigration, and alone. I’d started to feel hopeless as we collected our passports, went through the door to another baggage area, and fruitlessly searched for the group.
That’s when a young woman approached us. She was perhaps 22 years old, wore a backpack, blue jeans, spoke English with an island accent, and held a cellphone pressed to her ear.
“Are you from the cancelled plane?” she asked.
We told her yes and that we’d lost the group and our luggage.
She spoke into her phone in a language I didn’t recognize.
“Come with me,” she said, “we’ll find your luggage and the people.”
Relieved to have found help, we thanked her. “Do you work with the airport?” I asked.
“No,” she laughed, “I’m on the same plane.”
What Leaders Look Like
Her name was Amy. She didn’t have a title. No one had given her authority. I doubt anyone would have looked at the group of passengers and pointed to her saying “she looks like a leader.”
But she was the best leader I met that day. Amy had seen us get stuck at immigration and stayed back to lend a hand. She helped us navigate the airport, find our bags, and reunite with the group in time for a midnight ride to a curious hotel.
She saw a need.
She took responsibility.
She did what she could.
She gave us hope.
No one told her to. She just did it.
Leadership isn’t about your position, your title, or your power. It’s about the difference you choose to make.
How will you improve the world today? It’s your choice.
Thanks for the reminder, Amy.