Monday, June 5, 2017

Sintra, Day 2

On Sunday, we traveled to Sintra, a picturesque town nestled in the Sintra Mountains just west of Lisbon. Sintra has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its 19th century Romantic style architecture. Due to its geographic location, it was much cooler than Lisbon and at times, very windy, but it was a beautiful day.  

When we arrived at the train station, the impressive tile work inside the train station gave us our first glimpse of Sintra’s charm.

Our first stop was the Palace of Sintra, located in the historic city center.  Eric conducted his staff ride on his chosen leader, King John I, who is known as the “kind king” in Portuguese history. We discussed King John’s strategic decision-making skills and the cultural dimensions that may have impacted his decisions. Since King John had a military background and was an illegitimate heir who did not expect to assume the throne, we concluded that a leader’s background can heavily influence his or her decision-making skills.  After Eric’s staff ride, we broke into small groups and briefly explored the historic city center and grabbed lunch at one of the numerous outdoor cafes. 

From there, we traveled by bus up the steep mountainside to the Quinta da Regaleira, an estate built in the early 20th century by an eccentric, wealthy entomologist, Dr. Anthony Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. The Quinta estate is comprised of a mansion and a very large garden which includes an initiation well, a 100 foot deep well with a spiral staircase that leads to the bottom.  The architecture and gardens are full of esoteric symbols, and it is believed that the gardens served as an initiation path for masonic rituals.  I conducted my staff ride at the site of the initiation well, and we had a lengthy discussion about how leaders use symbols, rites, and rituals to connect with and engage their followers. Because symbols are an innate part of culture, our takeaway for today’s leadership was that strong symbols can help create a strong organization.

After my staff ride, we walked back down the steep mountain to the historic city center to catch a different bus to the Pena Palace, located at the top of the mountain. Because the buses were crowded and running very slow, we opted to take Tuk-Tuks to the Pena Palace.
It was a crazy ride, especially for Charles, Alison, Cathy, Sarah, and me.  For most of the trip, our Tuk-Tuk moved at a snail’s pace, but there were a few times we briefly traveled downhill and thought we were on a roller coaster. At times we wondered if we were going to have push our little Tuk-Tuk up the hill.  Even though we were the last to reach the top, we had a great time getting there.

We took another bus up the very steep hill to the Pena Palace, which is situated at the very top of the mountain. The palace’s architecture was beautiful, and the views from the palace were amazing-we could see the surrounding valley and the ocean. Alison conducted our final staff ride of the day on Queen Amelia, the last of the Portuguese royalty to use the palace as a summer residence.  Queen Amelia was a French-born noble expatriate who married into Portuguese royalty, and was a bit of a rebel and outsider who was faced with some difficult decisions during her reign. This resulted in a lively discussion of how leaders deal with rumors and the ways a leader approaches making difficult decisions. As with Eric’s staff ride, one of our takeaways was that a leader’s background can heavily influence his or her decision-making skills.

We headed back down the mountain to grab dinner at the CafĂ© Paris in the city center.  The food was delicious. After dinner, we had our last long wait of the day for the bus to return to the train station. While we waited, Martin said, “Maybe it’ll come…someday.”  On our train ride home we continued our discussion about our own cultural awareness dimensions. Even though it was a long day, we all agreed that we had a great adventure in the beautiful town of Sintra.  

Leigh Schell


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