The Leadership Pilgrimage - Leadership & Alice in Wonderland

The Leadership Pilgrimage: Leadership & Alice in Wonderland

In Latin, “pilgrimage” means “wandering over a distance,” but I don’t believe that wandering is what most of us imagine when we think of a pilgrim. The word has a much deeper meaning.

When we think of pilgrims, most of us envision someone who journeys to distant lands with a deep sense of direction and purpose. This is far from the old Latin connotation of people aimlessly “wandering” from place to place. “Wandering” is more like what Alice did in Wonderland. Remember the famous scene from that book when Alice asked the Cheshire cat:

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Regrettably, Alice’s “wandering” describes the type of journey that all too many of us find ourselves on today! While our modern lives are often crammed full of work, activities, diversions, entertainment, tasks, and projects, upon closer examination, we may realize that these tasks, while making us feel busy (and even important), far too often are just distractions that divert us from our real purpose.

Like Alice in Wonderland, we often are just heading somewhere without knowing, or worse yet, not even caring where we are going. Sometimes it feels as if we are just “wandering” back and forth, or are pushed and pulled from one set of obligations and commitments to another without feeling that we are in control of our final destination.

We, like Alice, are just heading “SOMEWHERE,” and while it’s true we will certainly get there, sadly, it is not the best way to realize our full potential. Far too many of us wander from classroom to classroom, from job to job, project to project, and even from relationship to relationship without feeling that we have any clear purpose or destination at all!

It seems to me these activities are taking us, like Alice, on an aimless journey to somewhere, anywhere.

I invite leaders to look at leadership as a pilgrimage, or a journey in search of significance driven by core values and a laser-like focus on creating a meaningful legacy. Looking at leadership this way helps individuals understand that life, career, relationships, and all other aspects of our lives are more than just a series of random tasks and activities. Life is a journey, even a sacred journey, and it is in a symbolic, if not in a very real sense, a pilgrimage!