Pitfalls of a Leadership Metaphor


What is your leadership metaphor? Metaphors guide us in surprising ways, and can cause barriers. Really? How could your metaphor as a leader cause a barrier? After all, you are the leader!

Let me give you an example. In my last post, I shared my metaphor for leadership illustrated in the book: Stone Soup. In the story, two travellers arrive in a village, hungry and tired. No one in the village will share their food. The travellers have a stone, which they describe as magical, that will turn the water in the soup pot into a delicious soup. Asking the villagers to enhance the soup, each villager shares a bit of their food, and the result is a wonderful soup, shared by all, and created as if by magic.

So how does this metaphor "live" in my leadership? I lead with the belief that together, we are stronger than just one person alone. Each person contributes their special something to the mix, and together, we make a tremendous difference. It does take a community to make something great. I expect and encourage everyone to contribute and share.

How does my metaphor cause a barrier? In the simplest terms, I become a "bad leader" when I ask people who do not want to share, to contribute. In their eyes, I am asking them to do something that they haven't done, don't feel comfortable doing, or simply don't want to do. That causes conflict for them and oozes out into the workplace. I ask them to come out of their comfort zones, and colalborate. Having a common goal that we make transparent is part of the process. That is uncomfortable for some people as the workplace changes.

As a leader, do you know what you believe and stand for, lived in your metaphor? If not, uncovering your metaphor can give you insights into the dynamics in the workplace.


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