7 Metaphors for Leadership TransformationLeadership Transformed, seven interdependent metaphors to explain and accelerate leadership transformation in leaders at any level.
The seven metaphors help you to get a grasp on the concepts and issues involved in leadership development. Leadership development doesn’t happen in parts. These interdependent metaphors emphasize the holistic nature of leadership development. They are:
1. FIRE: The motivational forces that initiate and sustain transformation efforts; including a burning platform and burning ambition, as well as personal and organizational reasons for change. Fire is at the center of the seven metaphors because if the why isn’t there, the other factors are just going through the motion. Fuda emphasizes burning ambition—fire from within—as the only motivation that sustains. You may change out of fear—burning platform—and it may provide the initial spark, but it burns briefly.
2. SNOWBALL: A virtuous snowball of accountability that propels the change effort forward; starting with the leader, and building momentum as others are "swept up" in the journey.
Building momentum is contingent upon getting a critical mass of leaders on the journey—perhaps even replacing those who are not committed to growth. Uncommitted leaders only cause drag on the snowball by not living the agreed standards of behavior.
3. MASTER CHEF: Artful application of the "leadership science" (frameworks, tools and strategies), which enable a leader to advance from amateur cook to "master" chef.
Pioneering French chef Marcel Boulestin once said “cooking is not chemistry, it’s an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements”. Similarly, transformation is accelerated when leaders work fluidly within a recipe (change frameworks), and artfully deploy their utensils (tools) and cooking methods (strategies). Leaders should become less rigid and more intuitive over time. This requires that a leader develop critical thinking skills and a deep understanding of where they are going and what leadership is. Otherwise they become tied to formulas and rote practices.
4. COACH: A team of consultant(s), colleagues and supporters that collectively coach a leader toward their aspirations.
It’s not about coaching. It’s about being coached from a variety of sources—consultants, colleagues, and family members. We can learn from anyone. Coaching is most powerful when all groups identify mutually beneficial outcomes from the leader’s transformation, and create a trusting environment for that coaching to take place. Hunter S. Thompson said, “He who is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.”
5. MASK: This metaphor has two aspects: the concealment of perceived imperfections, and the adoption of an identity that is misaligned with a leader’s authentic self, values or aspirations.
The mask is a heavy burden to carry. It creates inner conflict with a leader’s deeply held values and aspirations, and can negatively impact on important relationships. When leaders drop their mask in favor of being their "authentic self," the power this unleashes is atomic in scale; they get more done, build more trust, have far more enriching interactions and feel more fulfilled.
6. MOVIE: Processes for increasing self-awareness and reflection, which allow a leader to "edit" their performance, and direct a "movie" in line with their leadership vision.
Often leaders find themselves acting in a repetitive movie—their own version of Groundhog Day, doing the same thing day after day with the same result. By stepping out of the movie and viewing the footage objectively in the editing suite, leaders can hone their reflective capacity, and eventually, learn how to slow down their movie. From this place of stillness, leaders can begin to direct their own movie and choose a better response—in real time. A good metaphor for understanding purposeful leadership.
7. RUSSIAN DOLLS: A complimentary set of journeys that interact with a leader’s personal journey of transformation.
A leader’s personal journey never exists in isolation; it is surrounded by multiple other journeys occurring concurrently. When the journeys are aligned, something magical can happen. Conversely, whenever one doll tries to pull in a different direction, its proximity to the other dolls ensures that it doesn’t get very far.
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