- “The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain” by Victor Prince is a captivating blend of adventure and leadership insights that will leave you inspired and enlightened.
- If you’re looking for a book that combines the magic of a pilgrimage with valuable leadership lessons, keep reading to discover the transformative journey of Victor Prince along the Camino de Santiago.
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. Werecommends this captivating read The Camino Way to armchair travelers and to those seeking to enhance their leadership skills through personal growth.
- El Camino de Santiago, the Path of Santiago, is a 500-mile pilgrimage route to the tomb of St. James in northwest Spain. A French bishop made the first pilgrimage in 950 AD.
- In 2013 alone, nearly 216,000
- peregrinos – or pilgrims – made the trek to the shrine.
- During his month-long El Camino hike, author Victor Prince averaged 15 miles a day. The experience was a life and “career game changer” for him.
- The hike’s alone time, challenges shared with strangers and daily inspirations can be transformational.
- Each hiker’s “Pilgrim passport” offers hostel access and date-stamps marking your hike.
- Reminders on the back of the passport suggest actionable leadership lessons:
- They include: “Welcome each day,” welcome others, seize the moment, “share” and “feel the spirit” of past, present and future hikers on the same path.
- “Appreciate those you walk with today,” and “imagine those who will follow.”
- To apply the Camino’s leadership lessons at work, approach three things in a new way: “Think about yourself differently, think about others differently and act differently.”
- The Camino’s lessons are always available on your terms. You don’t even have to hike.
The Path of Santiago
El Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage route to the tomb of one of Jesus’s 12 disciples, St. James, known as Santiago in Spanish. In the year 950 AD, the first pilgrim, a bishop from France, walked 800 miles to the shrine. By the mid-1100s, the Camino spurred the first “travel guide,” a collection of documentation about St. James’s miracles that described the destination, explained how to get there and offered logistical details of the journey.
“Death is a terrible deadline…It is much better to set a ‘life list’ of things we want to complete while we can.”
Early pilgrims sought forgiveness for their sins or prayed for relief from the plague. They included tourists, spiritual seekers, and those running away from servitude or legal problems.
The Camino still draws people from all walks of life. When author Victor Prince walked it in 2013, he was one of 216,000 peregrinos, or pilgrims, hiking that year. The most-traveled route to the shrine’s town, Santiago de Compostela (usually called Santiago) in northwest Spain’s Galicia region, starts in France and goes west across the Pyrenees. The route from Portugal heads north.
“Time is the most fixed and scarce resource that leaders have. A leader needs to be as smart in investing…time as…any other resource.”
Prince set two goals when he was a child: to become president of the United States and to travel the world. He met his public service objectives by working as a cabinet member for a large US city’s mayor and as the chief operating officer of a federal agency.
Focusing on his second goal, he set out to travel. In 2013, Prince tried to identify a sabbatical trip that would offer both solitude and socialization. He decided to hike, and the Camino trail met his needs His journey inspired him and gave him insights about how to be a better leader. Averaging 15 miles a day, his walk became “a career game changer.”
Six transformative elements of the Camino trek are available and applicable to everyone, even without hiking. They are:
- “Alone time for self-reflection” – In blocks of a few hours, disconnect from the demands and distractions of work and home.
- “Easy interactions with strangers” – Seek interactions with people from different backgrounds. Group trips provide options you can’t access alone.
- “Shared challenges for camaraderie” – Pursue adventures that tap into interests you share with other people. Events or excursions with alumni organizations, history and genealogy groups, or athletic teams can provide meaningful experiences.
- “Charted path of the journey” – If your adventure tour is well organized, you are free from worrying about logistics and can enjoy the experience fully. Guidebooks and websites can be highly useful.
- “A meaningful achievement for self-confidence” – Select an adventure with a defined beginning and an impressive end. Completion helps you believe anything is possible.
- “Transcendent experience for inspiration” – Choose an adventure that’s likely to provide inspiration beyond the events in your daily life.
“Camino Leadership Lessons”
Prince carried a “pilgrim’s passport,” a credential that granted him entry to the low-cost albergues (hostels) along the route and access to stamps he could collect to mark his stops. The seven reminders on the back of the passport resonated with Prince as being important for leaders to understand. Each reminder leads to these actionable Camino Leadership Lessons:
1. “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 insert more time to experience the happenings around your project.”
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.
2. “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.
“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.” (Jonathan, a pilgrim from Ireland)
“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.
3. “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, which ones you assign to someone else and which you can make more efficient. Use 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 costs 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 to open up to you.
5. “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.
“I viewed lengthy ‘small talk’ at the beginning of meetings as phony and wasteful. The Camino taught me that talk is never small if it helps people feel welcome.”
To “learn from your predecessors,” ask if their history might be relevant to you as you start a new assignment. To save energy and time, talk with people who’ve done comparable jobs. Debrief those who worked on a project before you. “Get inspiration” from them. Work with them to ensure a successful transition. Ask veterans of your team for insight into their successes, failures and lessons. Create a sense of pride in your team as they draw on the legacy of their work.
6. “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.
“The Camino is an example of the saying ‘the journey is its own reward,’ and the [pilgrim] passport is like a record of the journey.”
Prince received an email asking him to do a training session. The date didn’t work, so he reached out to a colleague who could complete the assignment. This experience emphasized the importance of nurturing “acquaintances into relationships.” Building relationships pays dividends. Find opportunities to meet and help others.
7. “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.
“Blessed are you, pilgrim, if what concerns you most is not to arrive, as to arrive with others.” (The Beatitudes of the Pilgrim, as printed on Camino passports)
On the trail, Prince’s biggest encouragement came from graffiti along the way. On his return home, he recognized the power of showing the way in the workplace. Record the lessons you’ve learned, write reports or postmortems, publish and advertise your experiences, or mentor someone eager for the relationship. Each pilgrim’s Camino experience is unique, and people hike the Camino for unique reasons. Leadership is a comparable analogy. Don’t see those who succeed as rivals; encourage a positive transition.
The Camino’s Lessons for the World of Work
Undertake these changes to implement the Camino’s lessons:
- “Think about yourself differently” – Inventory the aspects of your job you enjoy the most and those you don’t enjoy. Define your ideal job. Participate in networking opportunities within your targeted field. Find inspiration in the accomplishments of other people. Use vacation time to conquer something meaningful. Introduce yourself as a well-rounded person: “I’m a dad, husband, kids’ basketball coach and a bank executive,” not just as by your job title. What can you reveal to others that makes you seem unique and interesting?
- “Think about others differently” – Define the values and goals you share with other people. Celebrate the differences among people of varied cultures on your team. Even when you work by yourself, remember that you have a team of friends and family, former colleagues, and contacts in your profession. Appreciate that team. Tell these people about your goals, so they can help you.
- “Act differently” – Make a “life list” of things you hope to accomplish. Prioritize your goals and, to the degree possible, work through them now, even if you must divide them into manageable pieces, rather than waiting for retirement. Identify barriers to your goals, plan to conquer them and create contingency plans for things outside your control. Buy your ticket, and set your plans in motion. When you set the scope of a project, be ruthless in determining needs versus wants. Recognize the advantage of getting a smaller project delivered to market quickly. Don’t get bogged down by bloated projects. “The best way to improve your leadership is to improve yourself as a person.”
Victor Prince is a leadership consultant and speaker. He previously served as COO of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and strategy consultant with Bain Company. He holds an MBA in Finance from Wharton.
Travel, Business, Literary and Religious Travel Guides, General Spain Travel Guides, Hiking and Camping Excursion Guides
Table of Contents
PART I: Meeting the Camino
CHAPTER 1: The History of the Camino de Santiago 5
CHAPTER 2: The Spirit of the Camino 15
PART II: Learning from the Camino
CHAPTER 3: Welcome Each Day, Its Pleasures and Its Challenges 23
CHAPTER 4: Make Others Feel Welcome 37
CHAPTER 5: Live in the Moment 51
CHAPTER 6: Share 65
CHAPTER 7: Feel the Spirit of Those Who Have Come Before You 79
CHAPTER 8: Appreciate Those Who Walk with You Today 93
CHAPTER 9: Imagine Those Who Will Follow You 107
PART III: Applying Lessons from the Camino
CHAPTER 10: The Post-Camino Impact 123
CHAPTER 11: Think About Yourself Differently 127
CHAPTER 12: Think About Others Differently 139
CHAPTER 13: Act Differently 149
PART IV: Sharing the Camino
CHAPTER 14: Find Your Own Camino 163
APPENDIX A: What to Know If You Want to Walk the Camino 171
APPENDIX B: The Camino Today 177
“The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain” by Victor Prince is a compelling and insightful book that combines the author’s personal journey along the historic Camino de Santiago with valuable leadership lessons. In this comprehensive summary and review, I will explore the key themes and takeaways from the book, as well as offer my thoughts on its overall impact.
Victor Prince, a seasoned leader with a wealth of experience, embarks on an extraordinary pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, to find a new perspective on leadership and life. Along his 500-mile trek through the beautiful landscapes of Spain, he encounters a diverse group of fellow pilgrims, each with their unique stories and backgrounds. Throughout the journey, Prince reflects on his own leadership experiences and draws parallels between the challenges he faces on the Camino and those he has encountered in the corporate world.
The book is structured around ten insightful leadership lessons, each inspired by Prince’s experiences and encounters on the Camino. These lessons include concepts like vision, teamwork, perseverance, and even the importance of gratitude. Prince’s storytelling ability shines as he weaves his personal experiences with these lessons, making them relatable and easy to grasp.
“The Camino Way” is a remarkable blend of travelogue and leadership guide. Victor Prince’s writing is engaging and accessible, and he successfully captures the essence of the Camino experience. His willingness to share his vulnerabilities and the challenges he faces during the journey adds a genuine and relatable dimension to the book.
The leadership lessons presented in the book are not groundbreaking, but their strength lies in how they are grounded in real-life experiences. Prince’s ability to connect the dots between his journey and the corporate world is impressive. Whether you are an aspiring leader or a seasoned one, the book offers valuable insights and practical takeaways.
One of the standout features of the book is its universal appeal. Even if you have no interest in leadership, the Camino de Santiago, or long-distance hiking, you can still find inspiration in the book’s themes of personal growth, self-discovery, and the importance of taking time for reflection.
In conclusion, “The Camino Way” by Victor Prince is a captivating and thought-provoking read that seamlessly combines the allure of adventure with the wisdom of leadership. It provides readers with a fresh perspective on what it means to be a leader and the importance of embracing life’s journey with an open heart and mind.