Wandering the Path of Leadership Development

I have an unexpected tradition of taking small hikes on New Year’s Day. 

Yesterday, I wandered into a nature preserve beside our neighborhood with my dog and daughter. I typically avoid it because it is known to be home to Lyme-infected ticks, but now that it is cold, it’s back in play.

As we walked the trails, I recalled a section from Andy Crouch’s book, The Life We’re Looking For, where he cites an essay by Wendell Berry that distinguishes between a path and a road. 

  • A path is the traditional means of finding one’s way through the world–a narrow, simple trail that belongs to the landscape.
  • A road is imposed on the landscape by massive earth-moving equipment. 
  • Paths respond to the world. Roads remake the world.
Developing human-centered, results-oriented leaders is more path than road. 

This realization is frustrating in our technologically advanced, road-obsessed world. 

We want things quickly and easily. We don’t want to wander the landscape to get to our destination. We want to get there NOW. 

However, wandering the path of leadership development is better for several reasons. 

1. There is more joy on the path.

Yesterday, I saw several people on the trail. They were enjoying the moment. I rarely experience such joy on the road. 

Developing leaders is an ‘in the moment’ activity. Enjoy it. Helping another person get better and wiser is one of the best uses of your time.

2. The path is slower, and slower is better for relationships.

Leadership is always, ALWAYS, relational.  You never lead a company or an organization. You lead people.

People are complex. People have various backgrounds, experiences, and home environments, so people have different wants and needs. So people need time. 

Is it any wonder that one ancient text says patience is a hallmark of love?

Patience is a virtue and a defining characteristic of great leadership.

3. The path is how we all got to where we are. 

This is Andy Crouch again, “I am here to write these words, and you are here to read them, because when we were young, small, and vulnerable–and at countless other critical moments in our lives–SOMEONE cared for us with personal attention.”

At countless critical moments in my life, a leader patiently taught me to read. Another taught me to type. Another taught me how to present ideas.

And I did not catch on quickly, so I’m glad we were on a path, not a road. 


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Chief Operating Officer for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

More Articles