Leadership and the Hiking Stick

From the desk of Greg Giesen

I like meaningful rituals. I like traditions; and I like to use metaphors as a powerful teaching tool. I’m also a sentimental guy—if you haven’t figured that out by now.

It is also why my hiking stick means so much to me.

Allow me to explain.


I came up with the idea of giving each participant in the Leading From Within program an authentic hiking stick about ten years ago. These hiking sticks are carved from the very Aspen trees that encompass the beautiful North Fork Ranch where we host the Colorado workshop (September 18-20th in case you’d still like to attend).

As part of this ritual, participants are asked to sign each other’s hiking stick, using paint markers. In many ways this part of the activity feels like the last day of high school to me where we all signed each other’s yearbook. Remember those days?

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But it’s much more than that. It’s what these hiking sticks have come to represent that make them so symbolic, especially for me.

You see, my hiking stick has both a practical and sentimental meaning. From a practical standpoint, it provides added stability, support, balance and protection for me whenever I go hiking. And from a sentimental standpoint, the ten-years worth of signatures that cover my hiking stick serves as a constant reminder of both my purpose (to help others embrace their authenticity) and the people who have supported me in that endeavor. Seriously, if my house ever when up in flames, the hiking stick would be one of the items I’d grab before running out. It means that much to me.


For the participants, the names on their hiking sticks represent not only their support group in the Leading From Within workshop but serves as a reminder that none of us can be successful in life without a support group of our own. To reinforce this point, I ask participants to add additional signatures to their hiking sticks after the program from the people that they would consider part of their broader support group.

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Last year we traveled to Illinois to bring the Leading From Within program to a corporate leadership team. After the program the group decided to prominently display one of their signed hiking sticks in their conference room to represent the importance of their commitment and support to one-another. Many other past participants have placed their hiking sticks in strategic locations in the homes or offices to remind them of their own support team.

Who would have thought a piece of lumber could carry so much meaning.


We’re saving a spot for you in next week’s Leading From Within program. Come join us and get your hiking stick. It will be an experience you’ll never forget.

For more information, inspiration and to register for our September 18th through 20th Leading From Within adventure CLICK HERE!


Greg Giesen

    • bradsdesk
    • September 8th, 2013

    Thanks! Metaphors give stuff more meaning. I use them all the time in writing and in public speaking. Makes stuff so much more memorable (and interesting).

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