“People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them… Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
The Alchemist might sound like an odd choice for our weekly book review, but this novel from Paulo Coelho contains many important leadership lessons.
The main character in The Alchemist is a shepherd who travels from his home in Andalusia across to Africa and eventually to the Great Pyramids of Egypt, only to return again to where he started.
The novel offers nontraditional lessons in leadership. Most leadership books outline exactly what you need to do better yourself. The Alchemist’s lessons fall in line with the theme of the book: You can only find the answers you seek within yourself. No one can give them to you.
A major lesson is to trust yourself. A good leader trusts their instincts and is confident in their decisions. Not every decision in life is going to be black and white. Emotions are a reliable and legitimate tool for decision making. A good leader knows when they are afraid or biased and works out these feelings before making a decision.
Leaders must also adapt and persevere through challenges. Santiago, the main character, is robbed, beaten and distracted His straight path through Africa to Egypt takes many unexpected turns. Leaders often face unforeseen and must adapt rapidly. Great leaders find the strength to move and seek creativity to solve seemingly unanswerable challenges. The harder the path, the more worthy the goal.
The Alchemist is a short and powerful read. And though this is not a traditional nonfiction business book, some of the best real-life lessons are told through powerful fiction:
“Making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to the places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decisions.”