« Cartoons | Main | Put the Box to Rest »


Todd Balcom

I provided Leadership Development presentations using a group drumming format. The process of guiding a group from non-musicians attending a professional workshop at the start to an finely orchestrated ensemble where people have worked together to created something larger than themselves is built on metaphor and becomes often creates new metaphor unique to a groups needs.

The metaphors are based on well know leadership practices... particulary Kouzes and Posner Leadership Practices Inventory:

A group of professionals that drum together with the intent of gaining professional and personal skills take a great risk by allowing themselves in something outside of their comfort level. Making music in moment means constantly listening, tweaking, evolving, creating... always challenging the process to reach the musics full potential. Leaders are constantly challenging a process to find improvement.

By using special music facilitation methods, participants are immediately exposed to the potential and possibilities that can happen together... inspiring each other to achieve for the benefit of each other... close your eyes and you can see my vision... and always begin with the end in mind. Leaders inspire others to a vision and help them find the value in that vision that is unique to them.

By acknowedging small sucesses along the way that adds to the groups mastery of creating rhythm together, giving them the basic techniques to get the best sound possible from their instrument, and tools to easily access rhythm, enable people to act and give them needed information to make musical decisions. When a leader gives people the tools and information needed to make decisions, he not only enables people to act, but has then created more leaders with the ability to challenge process and seek better outcomes that bring greater value to everyone involved.

By echoing, immitating, and following the strong beat of other players... participants are able to model their actions after others and find a comfort level that allows them to begin creating on their own. Effective leaders not only model tasks, but model their passion, their expectations, ethics, morals, principles, etc. This builds trust by making actions and beliefs congruent.

The tradition of a rhythm circle have included celebration of community, and strenghthening of bonds between people, sharing of the self, encouraging others and cheering success. Knowing that WE created something that was beyond what anyone could have created individually through synergy..the true value of our individual contributions can be realized with greater depth and meaning. Recognizing ones contributions as valuable to overall success while also valuing the contributions of others create a sense of ownership, unity, loyalty,cameraderie,and pride which in business is priceless in the benefits to the bottom line. Lets Celebrate With Song!

Music making in general is rich in metaphor: The various drums from around the world are a metaphor for different departments within an organization, the Bass drums keep the beat and move the music forward, much like a CEO or Manager, The music is built with a variety of sounds and timbres which represent the power of diversity make our music (or your team) reach a potential otherwise unrealized, etc. etc. etc.

Thanks for the opportunity to speak to my passion!

Tom Asacker

"There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader" - M. Ghandi

Mike Dresel

I know that there are many styles of leaders and each style can be effective. I have often described my preferred style with the fire-truck metaphor:

The long hook & ladder style fire-trucks have a steering wheel at the back, to help the truck negotiate tight turns. I tend to lead from the back - I ask a lot of questions [see my tagline] to bring issues for the group to resolve ('what does the user of our system really need?'), suggest a next step ('Do you think we should build a schedule?'), etc.

This works well with groups of highly skilled people, and my experience is that, at the end, they truly own the result. They also buy into any plans they created, so the schedule isn't arbitrarily imposed by evil management, but is rather a technical tool for the team.

The main drawback is that my management does not tend to see this as leadership.

"It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question."
--Eugene Ionesco

John P. Kelly

Sir Ernest Shackleton is the metaphor and role model for leadership. The story of the Endurance expedition to the South Pole is one which proves the aphorism that it is the journey and not the destination that is important.

A great book to read:
Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell & Stephanie Capparell P 2001 by Viking Penguin

The book is a story and leadership master class.

What is the key lesson? There are many - for me it is:

No prize is worth winning at all costs - the South Pole was achievable but all would have perished. There was a bigger goal - survive.

Shackleton led an expedition where their ship (Endurance) was caught in an ice floe like "an almond in a chocolate bar". The ship was eventually crushed in the ice and sank - after 10 months in the ice.

Shackleton then led his men to Elephant Island sailing in three lifeboats after disembarking from the ice floes of the Antarctic. It became obvious they would starve on Elephant Island. Shackleton then picked his crew of 5 to "sail" the James Caird ( a 22.5 foot lifeboat) the 800 miles to South Georgia island where they knew there was a whaling station. The journey took 17 days and ironically the cargo included 112 pounds of ice - as a water supply. They made South Georgia on Wednesday May 10th 1916.... to discover they were on the wrong side of the island.

In the early hours of Friday 19th May 3 of the 5 men: Ernest Shackleton, Frank Worsely and Tom Crean set out for the whaling station on the far side of South Georgia. No man had ever set foot in the middle of South Georgia - no maps of the interior existed... In the afternoon of Saturday 20th May the men walked into the whaling station on the far side of South Georgia and asked to see the manager. On meeting him "The Boss" said: "My name is Shackleton."

Every member of the expedition was saved. Not one person died. In the mid 1970's Lionel Greenstreet (First Officer) was asked how they all survived when so many expeditions perished. His answer - "Shackleton".

I confess a personal Irish interest in this story... Ernest Shackleton was born in Kilkea Co. Kildare in 1874 while Tom Crean was born in Annascaul Co. Kerry in July 1877. Frank Worsley was born in Akaroa New Zealand in 1872.

The journey across South Georgia and the subsequent retelling of it in Shackleton's book South became the inspiration for a passage in T.S. Elliot's poem Waste Land.

Never mind metaphors... use a real leadership journey - The Endurance expedition, with a real leader - Sir Ernest Shackleton!

Sharon Gander

A good leader is a (landscape) gardener working with the land as provided whether that land is their own produce garden with flower beds for yardscape, a paying client homeowner yardscape or a corporate-client's half-mile of building landscapes.

They improve the land seeking ways drawing out it's potential and show off its strengths. Where necessary they transform it with major reconstruction -- and they know the difference between when to improve and when to reconstruct.

Gardeners have a vision that is evolving and flexible; that is staged to show improvements incrementally. Gardeners have the patience to plant seeds in fall and not see results to spring. They have the vision to see colors and shapes flow and change over time and can design a product that is pleasing in the short-term and gets better over time.

Gardeners know when to add basic nutrition (soil, fertilizer, aeration, lime) or specialty razzle-dazzles such as lakes, gazebos or statuary and works of art. Gardeners do the routine work -- or make sure that someone does it -- the trim, mow, prune, deadhead, and weed to keep the garden in shape and showing off its best results, the plants against their backdrop.

Gardeners document their ideas, decision, work and results including costs in time and labor and cash and yield. Gardeners know how to time their work for best results -- planning in the winter, executing new designs in spring and fall, maintaining during the hot summer months, and harvesting when the crop is ready. They are knowledgeable about a wide range of related topics from the technical (plants, fertilizers, etc) to the structural (grading land, laying sod, fencing, building terraces, gazebos, patios and decks) to the artistic (color, design, art work) to the practical results (produce yields, cold frames to start plants early, etc). They read and study and learn constantly. They plan work in advance and stage the work over time; they work out plans on paper before beginning to plant or reconstruct. They get feedback from others based on the plan before implementing it. If other people are involved in executing the work, the gardener creates a vision with them, motivates them to help make that vision real even if the work is heavy labor and not very creative, works along side of them to actualize it, and then rewards them for their efforts. Where others have expertise and creativity to provide input for modification to the plan or the vision, the gardener listens, questions, and adjusts the plan and vision as needed. Where the plan is not executable or the people unable to make that plan happen for the given space, the gardener is ready to find alternative solutions that also work and give a similar results.

In the end, the garden itself draws people to it or to its yield. The gardener may or may not get the kudos for it. Whether or not the gardener receives recognition depends on other factors such as whether it was their own garden (a space that others know that they have created) or whether they are working specifically to create a name for themselves as a (landscape) gardener in that field. In most cases, gardeners merely move onto the next garden and the owner of the garden gets the kudos. Whether the garden and gardener get any recognition at all may depend on whether recognition was the intent or purpose of the garden. Many informal gardeners create produce gardens and family yards where their only recognition is produce yield or a "look" that makes them happy.

And, yes, that's leadership from beginning to end. It could be project leadership where one comes into a client's space and creates something for them only to leave with nothing more than a check and, perhaps, a testimonial that can be shared with others. Or, it could be the daily leadership where work is as on-going and repetitive as a produce garden and flower beds in the backyard.

Mel Mann

A leader is like the hand holding a magnifying glass, intensely focusing the resources of the enterprise on a single goal.

Jim Johnson

" The purpose of leadership is to develop more leaders not followers."

Therefore leaders must be teachers, mentors, and coaches. The most important ingredient is trustworthiness. People respond well when leaders model those certain leadership characteristics they are trying to teach.


From the pocketbook "The Tao of Leadership" #37:

Doing little

"It puzzles people at first to see how little the able Leader actually does, and yet how much gets done.
But the Leader knows that is how things work.
After all, Tao does nothing at all, yet everything gets done.
When the leader gets too busy, the time has come to return to selfless silence."
"Selflessness gives one centre
Centre creates order.
When there is order, there is little to do."

Keith Carey

A good leader is one who appears to magically get everything done, even when challenged with what seems like a million events and never complains about the time and effort invested to complete the task on time. A good leader is willing to take on any task while seeing benefits of education or learning to obtain.

Cathy L Helm

Leadership is a deeply personal journey.
Leadership is a process not a person.
Some of the most adept leadership is invisible.

These sentences--although not metaphors--were part of the Leadership and Change--A Group Relations Conference held in Washington, DC Oct 31-Nov. 3, 2002. My understanding is that they were written by Georgia Sorenson, Director, of the Washington-Baltimore Center, A.K. Rice Institute.

Cathy L Helm

Leadership is like the wind. It is usually invisible, can be strong or gentle, soft or hard, and constantly changing. At its worst, it can be devastating to all that it touches, while at its best, it can promote life and awesome creation.

Katherine Blake

Leadership is like passing on the knowledge of learning to tie one's shoes. At first you show by example, many times. Then you do it for them and have them share in the experience. Finally they do it on their own, with coaching and encouragement from you. Quite often they do it differently - in their style but they accomplish the task. And then they move on to other things - seeing you as providing the knowledge, skills, patience and encouragement for them.

If you have ever been a part of this accomplishment with children and/or remember the moment when you accomplished tying your shoes - you will understand the basic premise of leadership. It is not what you do but how you do

Reg Rygus

There's only way one can recognize a leader and that is to ask the question "is anyone following." To be the boss, in charge, manager, CEO, director does not make one a leader. A leader produces willing followers.

I think you'll agree that through through the last 20 centuries no one has more willing followers than Jesus Christ. Hear what he says about being a leader [great].

Richard Weddle

consensus is the absence of leadership

 Laura Hauser

A metaphor I've used in leadership development courses and in articles on leadership is the relationship between the horse trainer and the horse. Here is an excerpt from one of my articles:

Imagine yourself as this horse trainer. See the horse's great potential and form a vision in your mind's eye of what the horse can become. Stand in the center of the arena and let the horse move freely in circles around you. Observe the horse carefully. Have no illusions that the horse's natural instinct is to flee. Approach him from a desire to develop his full potential. Have the courage to stand at the center of the arena while the horse, powerful in his own right, gallops around you, sometimes bucking and kicking or even charging through the center. When the horse tires of being alone and senses your desire to help him, he will give subtle cues that say "I want you to take the lead in the relationship." And you do.

Jeffrey Cufaude

I often think of a prism--all of the ideas, talents, values, and energies come in one side and the leader helps provide a context in which they emerge in new and colorful ways.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Subscribe Heads-Up!

  • Subscribe with Bloglines
Blog powered by Typepad