Take This Quick Exercise: What’s Your Leadership Metaphor?


rocket launcher In a training program I attended several years ago, we were guided through a powerful exercise where we each wrote a brief life purpose statement. Here’s a quick adaptation of this exercise targeted to help leaders more intentionally step up and manage their impact with others:

  1. If you picked a metaphor to describe your leadership and/or the impact you want to have with those you lead, what would it be?

We tend to move towards what we envision and where we focus. So you might as well focus on an aspiration that is motivating to you, unique to you and bigger than you. Choosing a brief and simple metaphor is a great way to do this. To get your creative and inspirational juices going as you think of one to which you aspire, I’ll list a few examples I’ve heard… Torch. BS sniffer. Rocket launcher. Chief Encouragement Officer. Shepherd. Servant. Visionary. Superman. General. Gladiator. Jackalope. Player-coach. Connector. Gear between the wheels of management and wheels of line workers.

  1. If I asked your co-workers (or others) what metaphor they would use to describe your leadership and impact, what would they say? 

As someone who has coached several executives through a 360 degree feedback process, I’ve heard some choice metaphors and descriptors of senior executives from their co-workers. Here are a few… Racehorse. Train wreck. Bull dozer. Role model. Inspirational. Micro-manager. Attila the Hun. Dynamo. Fireball. Sparkle. Junior High Jerry. Teflon. Iceman. He possesses the emotional intelligence of a bar of soap. And before you add the metaphors or nick names for others that come to mind, remember: the question is how would others describe you. If you don’t know, then ask some people who will shoot straight with you.

  1. What’s your next step to close the gap?

If we’re honest, most of us find a gap between who we are and who we aspire to be – between the influence and impact we want to have on others and the impact we actually have on them. There’s no need to beat ourselves up over our failures and shortcomings.  But, at the same time, we become arrogant, stagnant and delusional when we think we’ve fully arrived and we quit learning and growing. Sample steps to close the gap include… Enlisting the help of a mentor or executive coach. Observing an expert in action. Trying and practicing new behaviors. Telling others that you’re trying to make a change and asking them for their ongoing feedback.

The good news is that the awareness of who and where you are versus where you want to be brings choice. When you see the gap between your current impact versus the impact and influence you’d like to have, it begs the million dollar question: what will you choose to do to close the gap?

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Joe Baker is a Partner, Rocket Launcher and Jackalope with PeopleResults. You can reach him at jbaker@www.people-results.com or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.