There's been a lot of talk about Widmore and Ellie and Mrs. Hawking and Daniel (see my DocArzt post for my wacky attempt at speculation... and for the record, YES I was joking...) but there's also been talk about Locke and the compass. He declares to Richard that he's already their leader, which is an odd way of putting it. But the way Richard visits Locke when Locke is five years old actually mirrors another way a leader is chosen: The Dalai Lama.
I'm going to post an excerpt from my episode guide for "Cabin Fever" (from my Finding Lost: Season 4 book) where I go into detail about Richard putting the artifacts in front of Locke (oh, and for the record, some people have been commenting that clearly Locke should have chosen the compass, but he did. He picked the compass, the vial of sand, and the knife; that last object was the one that got Richard's disapproval).
The “test” that Locke undergoes with Alpert is also similar to the ritual used to find the Dalai Lama. When a Dalai Lama dies, the High Lamas search for the reincarnated Dalai Lama, which can take up to a few years. Once the boy has been located, the High Lamas visit his home and lay several artifacts before him, some of which belonged to the previous Dalai Lama (and therefore, if the boy really is the reincarnated one, already belong to him). If the boy chooses the correct items, the High Lamas take that as a sign, and they confirm the boy’s authenticity with the Living Buddhas and the Government of Tibet. Richard, acting as a sort of High Lama, comes to Locke’s house thinking he’s found the Chosen One, and is clearly disappointed to discover he was wrong, though deep down he knows Locke is still special.
At the time I wrote this, of course, I had no idea HOW Richard thought Locke was special. Now we know.