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.


10 Replies to “Not All Who Wander Are Lost – A Lesson in Leadership Paths”

  1. I’d say 90% of my career has been wandering. Sometimes I can be hard on myself and the self talk of “why don’t you have a path?” comes to play. (When I get into this mode I try to remind myself of the Emilie Wapnick TedTalk on being a multipotentialite) A few times in my career I’ve been told I was a “real leader” in education and I am often caught off guard or brush it off because I sometimes feel that “leaders” in education are people who do the step 1 – step 2 – step 3 – end result path. Its an old way of thinking for sure. In my gut I belive there is freedom in getting lost because by dabbling in different things we learn what we love what we can do without, what our strengths and passions are and we can slowly build a life we are happy with and inspired by. I don;t know what my “end goal” is professionally, and I kinda like that 😉

  2. As an outdoor educator I find because of timelines and bus departures too often we need to say “stay to the trail” – however the best epiphanies and my own memorable leadership moments tend to come when you find the time to step off the trail into unknown areas. Therefore it is something we encourage often.
    Education (& educational leadership) should be less a cruise ship with pre determined stops. It must be more of a canoe trip where the route is chosen by your own paddle and agenda. If you want to explore the shallows or a tiny creek that catches your interest do so as that is after all inquiry driven.
    Nice post Tina

  3. A great read! The other day, a principal was asking me why I was doing a certain project – for my masters? For leadership? No, because I’m just innately curious to find out what happens to student learning. I will no doubt learn a lot about leadership during the project. I agree that the journey, not the destination of leadership is what is important. I too wonder when these less traditional means of getting here might be “counted”.

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