Leadership Transformation

7 Metaphors for Leadership Transformation™

Transformation in leaders is achieved through the interplay of 7 metaphors.

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.

The Fire, or the big why is actually a crucial part of how leaders transform. As Nietzsche said, “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. Fire is central to the other six metaphors, because if the fire goes out, all other factors are redundant.

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.

Momentum is contingent upon getting a critical mass of leaders on the journey, exiting those who are not committed, and embedding constructive leadership in the organisation’s systems and structures. At this point, the snowball is almost impossible to stop.

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).

COACH: A team of consultant(s), colleagues and supporters that collectively coach a leader toward their aspirations.

The leader is likened to captain of a sporting team who receives coaching from a variety of sources, both on-field and off-field. 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.

MASK: Concealment of imperfections, or adopting a persona, which is misaligned with a leader’s authentic self, values or aspirations.

The mask is a heavy burden to uphold; 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.

MOVIE: Processes of 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 in their own version of Groundhog Day, living the same reality day after day with the same result. After many visits to 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 draw upon past learnings, and their ever expanding repertoire of tools and strategies, and choose a better response – in real time.

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; there is most often a team journey, an organizational journey, and a journey of the up-line environment such as the corporate parent. And there can be even more journeys, or ‘dolls’ in the set. When all of the dolls fit neatly within one another, they have the potential to travel well together. 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.

HBR Article

Fire, Snowball, Mask, Movie: How Leaders Spark and Sustain Change

White Papers

WHY CHANGE EFFORTS FAIL

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ORGANISATIONAL TRANSFORMATION: CREATING ALIGNMENT FROM THE OUTSIDE IN

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LEADERSHIP TRANSFORMATION: CREATING ALIGNMENT FROM THE INSIDE OUT

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