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Leadership Metaphor Explorer™

The Center for Creative Leadership

Last Build Date: Thu, 20 Aug 2015 02:45:40 +0000


LME in the military

Sun, 30 Jan 2011 01:58:00 +0000

Leadership Metaphor Explorer in a military environment
A team from the Center for Creative Leadership recently used Leadership Metaphor Explorer as part of a design in working with senior military leaders. We hope to be able to share the full design and story in the future. In the meantime we just wanted to let you know it worked well in helping the group to clarify their current and future required states of leadership (below). It's not that the cards somehow measure or predict those states. Rather, the power of the tool is to help people have an open and honest conversation, with interesting images and metaphors "in the middle" to focus attention, and channel agreement and disagreement. Digital images of the cards then serve as reminders of the conversation and it's conclusions. Notice the shift in intent toward more interdependent, and independent leadership (blue and green titles respectively) and away from dependent leadership (red titles.)

The global reach of Leadership Metaphor Explorer™

Wed, 19 May 2010 20:59:00 +0000

monk chat in Thailand, see post 
thanks to Sarah Miller
From: Wright, Joel
Sent: 19 May 2010 11:45
Subject: Metaphor Explorer Question

Clemson and I were talking about the Metaphor Explorer and he asked if I had ever used it cross culturally and outside of the US. Upon reflection, the only time I had was when I was in Prague. Clemson was curious about how some of the cards are being received in less democratic locations. He mentioned some of the cards are very western/democratic and was curious: does anyone have some insight into this? Thanks!


From: Harrison III, Steadman
Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 2010 11:48 AM
To: Wright, Joel
Subject: RE: Metaphor Explorer Question


In the last month I've used the Leadership Metaphor Explorer deck in Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia--quite a range of governance and culture and language. The UN-IFAD team here in Khartoum will be taking LME with them as we head to the field tomorrow... heading down South to Rufaa and over to Wad Arakay on the edge of the desert... the entire training will be in Arabic and the locals won't be able to read the English subtitles on the cards... should be a great test to see how they are received!

My sense is that the newest deck is more global... we've replaced a few of the cards and updated some of the other pictures.

Just a quick update... from Sudan.


Metaphors support reframing and strategic thinking

Tue, 11 May 2010 00:19:00 +0000

Here's a way to use Leadership Metaphor Explorer for supporting strategic thinking during an online conference. Thanks to strategy and creativity mavens Kate Beatty and David M. Horth.

From: Beatty, Kate
Sent: Wednesday, April 07, 2010 12:31 PM
To: Palus, Chuck; Horth, David
Subject: LME images - electronic version

Hi Chuck and David,

I am doing some final work on my slides for the upcoming Jossey-Bass online conference. I am doing a workshop on strategic leadership, and would like to include several of the Leadership Metaphor Explorer cards in an exercise. At the beginning of the session, I will have them identify a strategic challenge they are working on. When we discuss strategic thinking, I want to give them the opportunity to reframe their challenge, and thought that showing several of the cards would be a good prompt for this.

Can you direct me to the electronic images of these cards?

Thanks for your help!


Hi Kate,
Here is the online source for one at a time downloading.
Chuck n Dave

Here’s an exercise that I will used when I have a large group e.g a presentation. I put out the LME cards one under each chair and start the session with the following question and exercise: (I’m doing a presentation on innovation leadership and culture on Saturday and using this exercise to kick off my short presentation.)
As you look at the metaphor card you have been assigned, in what ways does it describe leadership in your organization either:
  • In the past?
  • How it looks when we are at our worst?
  • How it looks now?
  • How it looks when we are at our most innovative?
  • How it needs to look like in the future?
  • How it needs to look like to resolve the major challenges we face?
Discuss with your neighbors

David Magellan Horth
Senior Designer
Center for Creative Leadership

Can culture be intentionally changed?

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 12:08:00 +0000

Here is a re-post from sampling John and Gary's great new book. For more on leadership culture see these articles, slides and video. Leadership Metaphor Explorer™ is keyed to stages of leadership culture and is often used in organizational leadership development. Here is a summary of their book, Transforming Your Leadership Culture. clipped from www.the-chiefexecutive.comLeaders, Logics and TransformationIn an extract from their book Transforming Your Leadership Culture, authors Gary Rhodes and John McGuire examine how leaders can change an organisation's culture.There is a logic to any persisting culture. A culture’s collection of beliefs and norms fits together in a meaningful way. For example, one system of leadership logic, which we call Dependent - Conformer, centres on the idea that a leader gives an order for someone else to carry out. This type of culture excludes non-official leaders from participating in the leadership collective. It leaves them and their potential waiting indefinitely to emerge.More>>[...]

Video Intro to Leadership Metaphor Explorer™

Fri, 06 Mar 2009 19:44:00 +0000

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Publications on leadership culture, interdependence, and the direction, alignment, and commitment (DAC) framework

Sat, 28 Feb 2009 17:03:00 +0000

Here are links to some of our own and others' publications on leadership culture and its development. For more information contact Charles J. (Chuck) Palus at the Center for Creative Leadership. Leadership culture is the self-reinforcing web of beliefs and activities that produce shared direction, alignment, and commitment in an organization or collective.For Organizational Leadership services and programs from the Center for Creative Leadership, contact Bill Pasmore, SVP & Organizational Leadership Practice Leader, copies only; do not repost or print in multiples without permission. Copyrights 2009 Center for Creative Leadership unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.Transforming Your Leadership Culture (McGuire & Rhodes, 2009).>>Executive summary of the book TYLC.Transforming Your Organization, CCL White Paper Inside Out: Transforming Your Leadership Culture (LiA article).The Deep Blue Sea: Rethinking the Source of Leadership (Drath, 2001).The Third Way: A New Source of Leadership (Drath, 2001; LiA article; summarizes Deep Blue Sea).Developing Interdependent Leadership (chapter draft).Interdependent Leadership Cultures (invited MiL Conference 2009 paper).Interdependent Leadership in Organizations: Six Case Studies (CCL report, McCauley et al., 2008).Direction, Alignment, Commitment: Toward a More Integrative Ontology of Leadership (Leadership Quarterly article, Drath et al., 2008).Toward Interdependent Organizing and Researching (McGuire, Palus & Torbert, 2007 chapter).Making Common Sense: Leadership as Meaning-Making in a Community of Practice (Drath & Palus, 1994, CCL Press).Evolving Leaders: A Model for Promoting Leadership Development in Programs (Palus & Drath, 1995, CCL Press).Putting Something in the Middle: An Approach to Dialogue (Palus & Drath, 2001, Society for Organizational Learning)Exploration for Development: Developing Leadership by Making Shared Sense of Complex Challenges (Consulting Psychology Journal, 2003).The Leader's Edge: Six Creative Competencies for Navigating Complex Challenges (Palus & Horth, 2002).Leading Creatively: The Art of Making Sense (Palus & Horth, Ivey Business Journal, 2005).Seven Transformations of Leadership (Rooke & Torbert, 2005).Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership (Torbert & Associates, 2004).see more leadership culture posts on this blog [...]

The origins of Leadership Metaphor Explorer™

Sun, 08 Feb 2009 19:52:00 +0000

Bruce Flye is the talented artist and facilitator that helped us create LME. Here are his reflections of how it all got started.I was there, but I’m still not completely sure what happened. Here’s what I recall. In early 2007 CCL invited me to graphically record their Crisis Leadership Forum, an event that is a story unto itself. On the second day I was approached by David Magellan Horth, one of the forum’s co-leaders, who asked if I might be interested in illustrating some metaphors they were working on. My initial reaction was one of alarm, and I barely contained my first thought: “I’m not a graphic artist and, furthermore, this is the first time I’ve ever done graphic recording!” Fortunately I went with my second thought and asked “Is this the style of illustration you have in mind?” as we looked at the work on wall before us. David said it was exactly what he had in mind, and from there we went to work.David and Chuck Palus provided an initial spreadsheet of 35 metaphors that were to be followed by an additional 25 or so still in development. Many of these early phrases prompted immediate images: Courageous Lion Tamers, Death-Defying Tightrope Walkers, Enlightened Gurus. I began generating sketches and e-mailing them in “for review and comment” as we say in the construction business, but I soon found I was in an environment to which I was absolutely unaccustomed. There weren't many comments on the drawings, and instead they sent more metaphors. It took awhile to realize that I had stepped into a very open-minded culture that trusted emergent process. Over many months we did about 55 or so cards and my work was considered complete. Over all that time I had learned much about metaphors, and had also begun to find myself a style with a tablet PC. Back in my day job, when I was called in to address a very tricky relationship issue within our Health Sciences Division I found I could crank out my observations via metaphor pretty quickly. Then, when David sent a note and asked if I could do another 20 or so for LME, I found they could now flow out rather smoothly. Check that; the production could flow smoothly. Conception was another matter altogether! What were they thinking: Confluence of Agendas? Silicon Valley of Innovation? Network of Peers? Well, we did those, too, and not that differently from the first set in that it was highly virtual collaboration. There were occasional e-mails, and a phone call every now and then, but I didn’t appreciate what was going on until we noted at the end that we had completed this fairly involved product without ever meeting face to face.A few of these have become remembrances of a special time in my life. One of the very few hints I was given about their intentions came from David for the Leaderless Orchestra: it’s about positive functioning. When he later saw the frogs on a pond he wryly commented “That’s some imagination you have there.” We actually talked in advance about possible content for Non-Violent Resistors, but while drawing it the violence was so palpable I sent it in asking them to look at it critically as I wasn’t sure they wanted everyone to have the sensations it gave me. And then the whole deck AND the experience of it coalesced into Ubuntu. Writing this now, it occurs to me that this work with David and Chuck has itself become a very powerful metaphor. But that’s another post.[...]

The art of exploration

Fri, 02 Jan 2009 02:45:00 +0000

How does exploration work? Here is a clever guide to the exploring mind ... clipped from www.brainrules.netThe brain is an amazing thing. Most of us have no idea what’s really going on inside our heads. Yet brain scientists have uncovered details every business leader, parent, and teacher should know. EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power. SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too. WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently. ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things. SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember. LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat. SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well. STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way. SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses. VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses. GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different. EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers. [...]

Wed, 03 Dec 2008 14:19:00 +0000


Monk Chat in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Sat, 15 Nov 2008 03:15:00 +0000


(image) From Sarah C. Miller at YLead:
M chose two pictures, one to answer the question of how a monk should be a leader in the community and one to answer the question of how he wished to be a leader. Both intersected in the theme of “know thyself.” For M, the most important part of leadership is knowing onself first. Only when we know ourselves, can we then lead others. He also chose several other cards to represent the various aspects of leadership a monk exhibits. But the crux of the issue was self-knowledge. ... >>more at the YLead blog.

LME for off-site team building

Wed, 30 Jul 2008 20:08:00 +0000


Here's another interesting and useful field report from Tom Hickok at DoD. Also check out Tom's earlier report on creating and sustaining high-performance organizations. Thanks Tom.


I used the leadership metaphor explorer (LME) cards yesterday in a team-building off-site. The group that I support in the Department of Defense environment almost doubled in the last few months, from about 18 to about 30. The off-site was planned to be largely a fun event for this group, with pizza lunch with time afterwards to socialize and relax. But there was a team-building exercise at the front end and I used the LME cards as part of it. The design of the exercise was for the division director to make some comments about some changes ahead. The purpose of those comments was to get the group thinking seriously about change/change management.

When the director finished speaking, I followed on his talk with the theme of "initiating change within a sea of change." After a word about the purpose of teambuilding, I asked the 23 participants to browse the cards, and pick one that they related to in some way, or spoke to them about the challenges/opportunities ahead. They did that, and reconvened, with chairs arranged in a circle to allow good face to face contact. I asked them to share briefly about why they picked the card they did, and any brief story behind it. Everybody shared willingly, without extra pressure. A few people shared about parts of their personal background that were previously undisclosed. Others talked about their work goals. Comments after were very positive about the experience.

Some things to note: 1) The LME exercise was compressed to about 35 minutes because we started as lunch approached, and I didn't want to start a hunger strike, so I assured them at the beginning of the length of the exercise :)) 2) My design consideration in having the whole group share instead of breaking into sub-groups was to help facilitate relationships across the whole team. Also, the limited time didn't really support a two step feedback process (small teams to large teams). 3) I kept the sharing very short due to the time constraints. We could have productively shared much longer (at least another hour), I believe.

I continue to be impressed with the versatility of the LME cards at drawing people out to talk at a significant, or even profound level, in a short period of time. I appreciate the chance to use the cards, and I think they are very ready for prime time. I even had colleagues ask me after the exercise where they could order the cards (one wanted to use them in her church, which has a new leadership team).

Tom Hickok

Understanding leadership cultures that enable innovation

Sat, 19 Jul 2008 20:58:00 +0000

Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2008 4:26 PMTo: Harrison III, SteadmanSubject: Leadership Metaphor ExplorerSteadman,We used the LME with our media client last week as we originally conceived the exercise: the participants explored leadership behaviors that enable and disable innovation. It was a memorable exercise in that it got the participants up on their feet so they could view the cards as well as stimulating fascinating dialog surrounding the questions. It was remarkable what people saw, how they interpreted it and then how they pursued consensus given their perspectives. I intend to share our experience at the AMI meeting in Banff. I'd be glad to elaborate more on the experience with you if you are interested and have the time.Jim MyracleTMT Associates, Inc."Experience Delivering Results"Here's the process --I used the LME cards to support a learning module on leading innovation and deliver on the objective to understand the leadership behaviors and cultural attributes enabling innovation. Since this module was part of a leadership development program that had been custom developed for one company, I also designed the exercise to deliver on the broader program goal of network and colleague development. To work within the available time, a pre-determined mix of enabling and disabling cards were distributed to four groups of four participants each.The morning began with an interactive discussion of product life-cycles and how organization culture and leaders evolve as products succeed and organizations grow. This was followed by an exploration of the unique types of innovation; process, sustaining (incremental) and disruptive (new-growth).It is at this point that I turned to the Leadership Metaphor Explorer to help identify the leadership behaviors and cultural attributes that had been hinted at. In the first round, each group was asked to discuss messages from the15 cards at their table and then collaborate to select up to four cards that depict leadership behaviors or cultural attributes that disable innovation. They were asked to share:1. The disabling behaviors or cultural characteristics they saw in the image,2. The type(s) of innovation that would be inhibited, and3. The ways in which leaders display such disabling behaviors or organization culture works to send out these subtle messages.A sampling of cards and comments selected during this round were:o Calculating Brains – forcing outcomes based on the needs of nowo Well-Defended Warriors – use power to overcome resistance, oblivious to outside intelligenceo Lone Ranger – holding on to the glory, individual staro Swarm of Bees – what happens to someone in our company if they make a mistake, fall shortIn the next round, the groups were asked to revisit their discussions and collaborate to select up to four cards that depict leadership behaviors or cultural attributes that enable innovation. This time, they were asked to share:1. The connections between the image and the enabling behaviors/cultural characteristics,2. The type(s) of innovation that would be supported, and3. The ways in which leaders display and cultures support such enabling behaviors.A sampling of cards and comments selected during this round were:o Shepherd – guiding, protective against interference, observant and listening, comes in all sizes and typeso Co-Creating Musicians – teams of unique contributors working in a highly integrated way to deliver one success they could not deliver on their owno Creative Repairmen –Competent in the old and also open to a new wayo Garage of Innovators – An overall favorite card among all the participantso Network of Peerso The following 4 cards were told as one story:Polarity of Opposites coming together, with the help of involved, knowledgeable Play[...]

Visual and verbal literacy: Skills for contemporary leadership

Wed, 02 Jul 2008 18:20:00 +0000

David Magellan Horth provides this field report on using Leadership Metaphor Explorer (LME) and Visual Explorer (VE) to address skills for contemporary leadership.The following design was used successful at the Library Leadership and Management Association LLAMA (a Division of the American Library Association - ALA at the LLAMA President's meeting June 2008 in Annaheim, CA. I was expecting about 10 people but more like 300 people came so I had to think quickly on my feet.OverviewIntroductionLeadership Metaphor ExercisePresentation on leadership culture stage developmentPresentation of the Sense Making Loop for complex challengesVisual Explorer ExerciseConcluding remarksDescription1. My session was called "Visual and verbal literacy: Skills for contemporary leadership"2. I put on one LME Card and one VE Card face down on each chair, randomly distributed.3a. I opened the session with the question: How does the metaphor you have been assigned describe leadership in your organization in any one of these ways:in the past?your organization at its worst?how leadership is practiced currently?how leadership is when your organization is at its best?how you would like leadership to be in the future?how leadership needs to be in order to resolve your most pressing leadership challenges?3b. Discuss with your neighbors4. People were then invited to come to the microphone with the card they had been assigned. The microphone had been set up in the center aisle to share what they had found. This was very rich. About 7 people came forward before I moved on to the next part of the session. They shared both the metaphor and insights they had gained.5. I then did a presentation about how we think leadership will look like in the future using:Honorable Captains to illustrate dependent leadershipAdventurous Explorers to illustrate independent leadershipLeaderless Orchestra to illustrate interdependent leadership6. I then presented the Sense Making Loop used as a response to complex challenges.7. There was a VE image at each seat. I asked them to think of a complex challenge in their organization. How does the visual image you have been assigned describe your complex challenge?8. Again I had people come up to the microphone to share insights on the process and what they learned.One woman chose the snails eye view of trees as a metaphor for appreciating diversity."Lying on my back looking up at the trees and seeing how beautiful they are and how different they are in height. If I appreciate the beauty in them, they will in turn appreciate the beauty in me."I rounded things off by reciting a verse from T.S. Eliot, East Coker, to close.In order to arrive there,To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.In order to arrive at what you do not knowYou must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.In order to possess what you do not possessYou must go by the way of dispossession.In order to arrive at what you are notYou must go through the way in which you are not.And what you do not know is the only thing you knowAnd what you own is what you do not ownAnd where you are is where you are not.[...]

Leadership in permanent whitewater: Playing with the metaphor

Thu, 19 Jun 2008 21:47:00 +0000

The essay below was first published in 1997. Several generations of kayak design have come and gone since then, and David Magellan Horth and I have run the Ocoee River in a tandem kayak, twice. The main point of the essay is still a good one: serious play is the key to navigating turbulence, wherever you find it. (The image above of the businessman / kayaker, and the newer one below of collective whitewater leadership, are by cartoonist / philosopher / friend Dave Hills. These are not in our current Leadership Metaphor Explorer deck, but probably should be. Thanks Dave.)Permanent White Water: Playing with the MetaphorCharles J. PalusThis article is reprinted from Issues & Observations, CCL Press, Volume 17, Number 1, 1997.In his book Managing as a Performing Art, Peter Vaill introduces an intriguing metaphor for the change, uncertainty, and turbulence that now characterize organizational life: permanent whitewater."Most managers are taught to think of themselves as paddling their canoes on calm, still lakes. . . . They're led to believe that they should be pretty much able to go where they want, when they want, using means that are under their control. Sure there will be temporary disruptions during changes of various sorts--periods when they'll have to shoot the rapids in their canoes--but the disruptions will be temporary, and when things settle back down, they'll be back in the calm, still lake mode. But it has been my experience . . . that you never get out of the rapids. . . . The feeling is one of continuous upset and chaos" (p. 2). This, or any, metaphor can best help us stretch our thinking when we draw out both of its realms (in this case, white water and organizational life) and explore the connections in detail. Vaill says very little about the actual experience of white water. If we take a good look at that realm, however, I believe we'll find that the ways that people develop efficacy in the turbulence of white water are suggestive of ways people can develop efficacy in the turbulence of organizations.How can I claim this? My avocation is kayaking whitewater rivers. I have run many eastern U.S. rivers including the New River Gorge, the upper Gauley, and Chatooga's Section IV. As a Research Scientist at the Center I have also spent a lot of time studying individuals and organizations in the midst of turbulence.Let's start with the current in a whitewater river. A novice river-runner typically sees what appears to be a random froth of rocks and water. One of the first lessons is "reading the river." How can something random be read? Properly speaking, white water is not random; it's chaotic. Chaos has random elements, but it also contains exquisite patterns. In rivers, these patterns tend to be quite stable, so that a snapshot of any single area tends to look the same from moment to moment--although it is constantly reoccupied by different water molecules. Reading a river is thus a matter of learning to recognize the patterns and associating the patterns with their effects on boats.The most important pattern element in white water is water moving upstream. Yes, upstream. Features of the underlying river bed that provide resistance to fast-moving water create varieties of eddies and waves containing local upstream currents. Think of the overall pattern as one of great masses of water moving more-or-less straight downstream, embellished at the edges by circular swirls (eddies and waves, or what is sometimes called "turbulence"). These swirls make all the difference. A skillful boater can place his or her boat on even a small eddy, with little effort. This allows the boater to slow down, turn, stop, or even drift upstream a bit. How does one learn to read [...]

Leadership Metaphor Explorer Cards used with multiple federal agencies at the Treasury Executive Institute

Sun, 15 Jun 2008 21:53:00 +0000

From: Laskow, GregTo: Palus, Chuck, Horth, DavidSubject: Metaphor Explorer Cards with multiple federal agencies represented at today's Center Connection at the Treasury Executive InstituteHello David and Chuck:The Leadership Metaphor Explorer Cards were a supreme hit with multiple federal agencies represented at today's Center Connection at the Treasury Executive Institute. This was the initial event for the morning.First we asked them to write down adjectives in response to the framing question: In your agency today, how would you describe the talent pool for future leaders? (An option is to allow more time for journaling on this topic)Next we asked them to select a metaphor card that represented this current state of affairs in talent development (this is step 1R in the 4MAT Model). There were 5 tables with a deck of Metaphor Cards at each table. I asked them to spread them out so that all were visible. They did so immediately and enthusiastically and began to exchange their reactions to the cards (we did not have to tell them to do this). They each selected a card, sometimes two.We had them exchange with each other their adjectives and the reason they selected the card(s). This took 10 minutes.When we asked them to report out, we received comments such as "I can't believe that we were able to describe our situation in such a short period of time".Lastly, we did a Visual Explorer session. Here we asked, them to select one image that represented what they needed to do differently in their organizations given what they learned today. I literally took them on a gallery walk with almost all of the VE images on display to insure that they saw them all (we were constrained as to space) and with a hand-held mike, I "led" the tour encouraging them to let the picture "grab" them. Worked well and then we had them do a table-top debrief using the Star Model. VE was a real hit as well. We let them keep their selected VE images as well as their selected ME images.Regards,Greg Gregory B. Laskow, Ph.D.Lead Senior Enterprise AssociateGovernment & Military SectorCenter for Creative Leadership [...]

Creating and Sustaining High Performance Public Organizations

Sat, 14 Jun 2008 18:19:00 +0000

Thanks to Tom Hickok for this fine description of how the Leadership Metaphor Explorer Cards worked in his advanced topics in management course at Virginia Tech, with a special focus on "the inextricably intertwined concepts of leadership and culture."-----Original Message-----From: Hickok, Thomas, CTR, NII/DoD-CIO []Sent: Thursday, June 12, 2008 5:07 PMThank you for allowing me to use the metaphor cards. I have had one opportunity to use them to date, and see another opportunity coming up in a few weeks. You asked for feedback on use, and I am happy to provide it.I am presently teaching a course at Virginia Tech designated as an Advanced Topic in Management; the subtitle is "Creating and Sustaining High Performance Public Organizations." There are 15 students -- 12 are PhD candidates and 3 are Masters candidates -- in two locations, Richmond and Alexandria, and they represent a mix of local and Federal organizations.I used the cards in the 3rd session, a joint Saturday session in Fredericksburg, in between Richmond and Alexandria. We shared a meal at a local Perkins restaurant, and went to a classroom at nearby Mary Washington College.I started the session by letting the students know we would be having a discussion followed by an exercise. The discussion began with the class brainstorming a number of characteristics of high performing organizations. Then we teased out the discussion of one of those characteristics -- accountability. We talked about what the term meant operationally; how you would implement it; what would be consequences of failure to implement; and how you would measure it. This was a robust discussion.Next I laid out the cards on several tables. I asked the students to mill around the tables and to pick out one or two cards that spoke to them in respect to the challenge of creating a high performing organization. The organizational context could be either where they worked, some other organization, or an imaginary organization. The card(s) could speak to them in either in a negative or positive way. And I let them know they would be asked to share about the card(s) they pick.The sharing came fluently and progressively seamlessly as the discussion went along. By fluently, I mean that none of the students had trouble sharing, and in the process both self-disclosed and provided insights into their organization. By seamlessly, I mean that students hop on each others backs, linking their card to the one just previous. The discussion period last nearly an hour and a half.There was no given order for discussion. The way they took turns is, after someone shared, another person would say "Maria's card reminded me of ... " and then they talked about their own card.Examples of the discussion: Student used ...strict disciplinarian to talk about how rules can stifle creativityco-creating musicians to talk about high performance as improvisational jazz squadron of jet fighters to talk about the need for training to simulate real situationsunion of independent states to talk about new stovepipes replacing old onesambitious pioneers to talk about some initiatives of the new President Other cards used were critical parents, community of practice, preserved fossils, network of peers, steady navigators, and adventuresome explorers.There were no negative comments about the cards. The beauty of the card process is that there is no need for every card to resonate -- as long as some do.I had about 15 minutes prior to close, so I invited the students to give feedback on the class, and especially the use of the Explorer cards. I had earlier let them know the terms of use -- that you were le[...]

Coaching with the Leadership Metaphor Explorer™

Tue, 10 Jun 2008 20:27:00 +0000

Our CCL colleague Clemson Turregano did an impromptu coaching session with his CEO client, using LME and the iLead (CCL's customized version of the iPod Touch).
“I was showing the new iLead to JX, the CEO of Big Co., India Division, while we were waiting in the lobby of a hotel. We did an impromptu one on one coaching session. I handed him the iLead and showed him how to browse the digital Leadership Metaphor Explorer™. He said he liked the tool, and then I casually asked him, “Where are you now, as a company?” He chose the one labeled “Ruthless Gang Bosses”; he laughed and called it “Gang of Idiots. … that’s us.”

We talked about that awhile and then I asked him “Where do you want to go?” That was a great question and we really got into it. He picked “A Squadron of Jet Fighters” and talked about ways in which they could all be flying together in synch. (image) JX said that now all the people that reported to him had a lot of autonomy and big egos, all with different agendas, and the team was all over the place. He wanted them aligned and focused on one objective. Later I talked to JX’s personal coach and she listened with all ears as I shared these images and ideas from our in the moment coaching session.”

Framing Questions for Facilitating Leadership Metaphor Explorer™

Mon, 19 May 2008 23:57:00 +0000

Here are steps and framing questions to use with the Leadership Metaphor Explorer™ Card Deck. This process can be adapted to any size group, for pairs of people, or for individual reflection.

First choose a framing topic or question.
"Pick a card that says something about ... "
For example:

  • Leadership in my organization ... or community, or team.
  • How do I myself practice leadership? Past, present, and future (3 cards)?
  • What does leadership look like around here?
  • What do I want leadership to look like?
  • The kind of leadership we need for the challenges we face.
  • This is us at our best.
  • This is us at our worst.
  • This is what we looked like during the crisis last week.
  • These are our competitors.
  • These are our clients or customers.
  • This is the kind of talent we have in this organization.
  • This is the kind of talent we need in this organization.
  • This is me when I was younger.
  • This is me now.
  • This is me next year.
Next, talk about your choices using one or more framing questions.
Questions to talk about include:
  • Why did you pick this card? Find out why others picked the cards they did.
  • What are the strengths in this way of leadership? What are the weaknesses?
  • What is the story? Tell the story behind the card.
  • How do the cards connect or fit with one another? How do they help or hurt each other?
  • What cards are more mature ways of leadership? Which are less mature? Why?
  • Where do we have conflict? Explain the conflict using the metaphors.
  • Which way would we like to be? What are we missing?
  • What is the right combination of cards for our challenge? In what order?
Finally, reflect on what you have learned from the metaphors, and what steps you might take.
  • What did we learn? What was surprising? What did we already know?
  • What was this experience like emotionally?
  • What is the wisdom expressed here?
  • What new or changed beliefs about leadership does this suggest? Does this change how you define leadership?
  • How does this suggest a different way of doing things?

Leadership Metaphor Explorer™ visual introduction

Sat, 26 Apr 2008 01:03:00 +0000