Peter Senge made this statement in his classic book on leadership, The Fifth Discipline, “The journey is the reward” (p. 142). The reality of this statement shouts in my ears when I have made difficult hikes. In preparation for my adventure on the Appalachian Trail, I had the great opportunity to hike the Grand Canyon. One of “my three sons” (what a great name for a TV series), Ben, and my best friend, Mark, and I hiked from the South Rim down to Phantom Ranch in the bottom of the canyon then up to the North Rim, turned around and hiked back down to the valley and up once again to the South Rim – better known as Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim.
It was a fantastic experience… the sun was incredibly hot (110+ in the shade)…the elevation challenges were significant (dropping over a mile from rim to valley)…there were water stops along the way but all food and every other provision had to be packed and carried on one’s back. We might have been able to hike the path faster each day…. we might have made the hike in three days or maybe even two (many hikers do). But each step was filled with inspiration, adventure and a sense of the magnificent. There were beautiful rock formations painted with a multitude of colors and artistic lines so reflective of a Creator, the cool, crystal-clear stream that meandered for miles along the trail, and the walls of the canyon that provided shade from the blazing sun and a peaceful sense of grandeur and majesty. Reaching the North Rim, as a halfway point, and then collapsing in fatigue as we arrived back on the South Rim after four days of heat and elevation, was a significant accomplishment enjoyed by our trio of mountaineers. But the real reward was the hike itself… the beauty and wonder of the canyon…the sense of the presence of the Almighty One…. the journey, the walk, the hike, the challenge, the sights, the sounds, the night skies exploding with countless stars, the camaraderie, and the thrill of just being there. The journey was the reward.
In leadership and in life, the biggest reward is often not the paycheck or even the goal of the organization itself, but rather, it is the journey the leadership provides. It is the people you get to know; the challenge involved in the task or ministry; the transformation that occurs in the team; the incredible growth that can be measured inside of you.
My, how I anticipate the journey that awaits me in Springer Mountain, Georgia. I pray that I will be sensitive to the adventure and the rewards that greet me every day. I trust that the transformation will be deep and personal all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine.
Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. NewYork: Doubleday.