Not All Who Wander Are Lost – A Lesson in Leadership Paths

IMG_3197.jpgIt was a hot Sunday afternoon when I arrived in Lucca. The first day of the solo leg of my summer adventure and I was nervous. With all my travels, this was the first time I was all alone with no agenda. With no set plan and hours to spare, I set out map in hand. Like many medieval Italian towns (built on Ancient Roman towns), Lucca was full of narrow winding streets. Streets cars could barely pass (they actually only let you drive in the city if you are a local). It wasn’t long before I got lost. Now to be fair I can get lost going home so this wasn’t necessarily something new. What was new was there was no rush, no deadlines, no meetings. There was nothing to hold me back (or become my excuse). I had the freedom to enjoy the journey. I wandered in to old churches, up crooked towers and down bicycle laden laneways. To others it may not have been the best use of time. It may not have seemed logical to go in circles or miss a few landmarks here and there. When in doubt I could go to the standard path: a walkway above the city walls that circled the city, or back to the anfiteatro in the core but for a moment it was ok to be wandering .

Not all who wander are lost. Tolkien

Sitting on a plane heading back to Toronto, I kept thinking of Lucca, those narrow pathways and the wandering in my own personal leadership journey. It’s hard to give yourself that permission to wander, the permission to not take the standard path set out. Education seems to have a pretty clear pathway for leadership: step 1 leads to step 2 leads to step 3, the quicker the better. Like the city walls, they become a constant reminder of a common path I haven’t chosen to take yet. Sometimes wandering feels uncomfortable. At times I feel completely confident navigating tiny laneways. At other moments panic sets in that I’m lost with no way out. Lucca reminded me that the classrooms I get to visit, the conversations I get to be a part of, the questions I get to ask, the risks I get to take are like the gems I got to experience while wandering Lucca. There is freedom in letting yourself wander. I can see the common path and take it when I’m ready but for now I want to remember that just because I’m wandering, I’m not lost. I may be exactly where I need to be.

Were there moments in your leadership journey where you felt you were wandering? Is there a harm in getting lost? Love to hear your thoughts.