The Camino Way Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain – Victor Prince
Leadership consultant Victor Prince took a month-long sabbatical to hike across northern Spain as a pilgrim on El Camino de Santiago – the Path of Santiago. He describes many ways the Camino changed his perspectives on life and leadership – and he outlines how you can experience a similarly transformative process that will inspire how you lead. Drawing on personal experiences and interviews with nearly 100 other pilgrims, Prince clearly and deftly blends his travelogue with management advice in the form of “seven simple leadership lessons.” He also provides a “How to Do This at Work” section for each lesson. getAbstract recommends this captivating read to armchair travelers and to those seeking to enhance their leadership skills through personal growth.
Welcome Each Day, Its Pleasures and Its Challenges
The goal of walking hundreds of miles is intimidating. Breaking the journey into shorter stretches makes each day’s objective more attainable. Commit to starting each day with a “reasonable goal,” such as the number of hours you’ll walk. You could specify the time you’ll stop working for the day or the single task that will make your day feel successful.
If you have a project plan, identify points where you should spend more time experiencing the happenings around your project.
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Celebrating “small pleasures” motivates pilgrims. Prince started hiking daily before breakfast. Each day’s cup of coffee became a celebration of accomplishment. At work, meet your morning goals and have breakfast as a reward. Lunch can become your midday deadline. When you meet a goal, celebrate and focus on things outside of your job.
Give yourself one clear goal that you can check off that day to make you feel like you are making progress on your larger journey.
After a 19-mile hiking day, Prince arrived at a scheduled stop only to find an error in his itinerary: his hotel was another six miles away. Persevering, Prince kept hiking. He recognized the importance of keeping challenges in perspective to minimize stress. On a bad day at work, remember how excited you were to get your job and how grateful you are to have it.
Make Others Feel Welcome
At some point during his career, Prince stopped making time for small talk during meetings at his company. The Camino reminded him to “greet people in a meaningful way.” Rosie, a pilgrim from Australia, shared a story that exemplified the spirit of the greeting “Buen camino!” or “Good walk!” As rain came down in sheets, a woman living along the path invited Rosie inside to wait out the storm. To “be the kind stranger” in your workplace, be accessible and keep your door open—either literally or figuratively. Keep a pathway open to the public to help strangers in need.
Different Pace For Everyone
Understand that everyone has a different pace of walking, which can also translate into a different pace of learning or working at our daily job.
“Welcome help” from others. Prince saw pilgrims looking for the yellow blaze that marked the trail. When they didn’t see the arrow and turned the wrong way, three local men excitedly pointed them in the right direction. Prince realized that he’s often comfortable giving advice but rarely asks for it. He decided he should be more open to receiving it. Strong leaders don’t fear others’ help. They appeal to staffers who can help them, and they teach their teams to be receptive to aid. When you receive advice, act on it and express your thanks.
Live in the Moment
When Prince began the Camino, he loaded his phone with audiobooks for listening while walking. On the first day, he decided to wait to listen until he was bored. He never used his earphones. This removed “weapons of mass distraction” from his hike. Enforce a “no distractions” policy in your office to keep electronics out of meetings. Hold yourself to the rule. The yellow arrows marking the Camino help hikers. They don’t have to keep their noses in guidebooks. The yellow marks teach pilgrims to “look up from the plan and experience the journey.” Build slack into your work schedule to make the most of unpredictably meaningful experiences, crucial corporate dates, or project checkpoints.
Time is a limited resource, so “control your calendar.” Be selective about attending meetings; decide which ones you assign to someone else and which you can make more efficient. Use your free time to think or to build relationships.
The Bodegas Irache winery along the path provides a wine fountain where peregrinos can fill their bottles for free. The shared fountain creates goodwill with hikers and, as a highly photographed spot, provides excellent brand exposure. “Find profitable giveaways” by identifying items like tours, excess products, or inexpensive recognition that cost you little but are of high value to your customers. Lower barriers to entry. Make activities more enjoyable.
Create team-building experiences by focusing your members on a charitable project, such as collectively volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. “Share yourself.” Be open about how you function and what shapes your work. Admitting your quirks lets your peers open up to you.
Feel the Spirit of Those Who Have Come Before You
Contemporary pilgrims walk past tributes and memorials to those who hiked the Camino over the past 1,000 or more years. Prince saw a marker memorializing José G. Valiño, who’d died at that spot along the path. As he walked, Prince wondered about Valiño, how old he had been, why he had started his pilgrimage and what had led to his downfall. Prince later dedicated this book to Valiño. Apply this reflective approach to those who came before you at work. “Honor your predecessors” and highlight their achievements.
Appreciate Those Who Walk with You Today
Prince caught himself being snarky about how other hikers packed, assuming it reflected their lack of preparedness and ability. While he rested, they caught up with him, offering to share their snacks. He learned from that not to judge people. Try to envision their circumstances; someone’s struggles may not be obvious. Falling into a pace that matches someone else’s can be comfortable or not. Michael, a pilgrim from Ireland, said that if you prefer to walk alone, you can stop to tie your shoe; if the other person doesn’t take the hint, tie the other shoe. You may find yourself on the receiving end of this tactic. At the office, be selective about your associates. Don’t spend time with negative people, those who monopolize your energy, or those with bad attitudes who make others uncomfortable.
Imagine Those Who Will Follow You
Like Camino pilgrims, effective leaders leave the path in good shape for those who will follow. Envision your workplace or your team in a decade or two; how will it have changed, and is it a welcoming environment? How do you manage costs for a solid financial future? What are the company’s infrastructure needs? Today’s decisions become precedents.