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Through Their Own Words: Towards a New Understanding of Leadership Through Metaphors

Research and Teaching Output of the MIT Community

Show simple item record Mayer-Schonberger, Viktor Oberlechner, Thomas 2010-06-15T19:06:08Z 2010-06-15T19:06:08Z 2003
dc.description.abstract This paper suggests that metaphors are essential to understanding leadership. Metaphors can serve as underlying, organizing structures of leadership thinking and experience, and they can be mobilized in order to accomplish interpersonal goals. The literature on leadership abounds with metaphors, such as leadership as game, sport, art, or machine. The multitude of leadership metaphors used by authors and leaders alike appears determined by a complex interplay of personal, situational, and cultural factors. However, analysis of leadership interviews indicates that these metaphors center on experientially significant nuclei of meaning. By examining the entailments of leadership metaphors on such dimensions as highlighted and hidden leadership aspects, or the suggested relationship between leader and follower, metaphor analysis allows the exploration of leadership conceptualizations on an experiential level. An exploratory grid presents possible entailments of selected metaphors on important dimensions of leadership. We propose that the study of leadership metaphors can provide valuable lessons to leaders. For example, effective leadership may require a rich and situationally attuned metaphorical vocabulary. Leadership metaphors carry implicit suggestions about values—what is good, what should be done, and how—and may also allow for new insights into the ethics of leadership. en
dc.language.iso en_US en
dc.publisher Center for Public Leadership en
dc.relation.ispartofseries Center for Public Leadership Working Paper Series;03-06
dc.subject metaphors en
dc.subject leadership en
dc.subject kennedy school en
dc.subject harvard en
dc.subject hks en
dc.subject cpl en
dc.title Through Their Own Words: Towards a New Understanding of Leadership Through Metaphors en
dc.type Working Paper en

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