How do you think of your group or team? Chances are you can come up with some colorful language or meaningful metaphors that get at the heart of leadership in your organization.

CCL’s Leadership Metaphor Explorer™ (LME) tool taps into these gut feelings about the leadership culture — What’s working, what isn’t; Who you say you are vs. what is really happening.

LME is easy and intuitive to use and requires no special training or coaching skills — yet it produces a dynamic, interactive conversation.

“I often describe the use of these cards and their companion, Visual Explorer, as greasing the wheels of conversation,” writes “visual practitioner” and Leadership Metaphor Explorer™ artist Bruce Flye in a blog post. In his day job, Flye is the director of Planning and Partnerships at the Brody School of Medicine in Greenville, NC.

The tool itself is a deck of postcard-size cards illustrated with a rich variety of drawings and captions designed to provoke insights and different perspectives about leadership. The 83 images include metaphors as diverse as Calculating Brains, Peaceful Warriors, Garage of Innovators and Ruthless Gang Bosses.

Leadership Metaphor Explorer

LME is typically used by leaders and members talking about leadership styles and cultures, comparing needed and actual leadership — mine, yours, and theirs — in the past, present and future.

One fan of the tool is Amanda Kowal Kenyon, senior vice president and director, Organizational Development for Ketchum, a leading global public relations firm. She reports:

“One of my favorite tools is from the Center for Creative Leadership. Their Leadership Metaphor Explorer cards are ideal for helping a group think deeply about the aspects of leadership that resonate in their organizations today as well as their aspirations for leadership tomorrow …

“I recently used the set with leaders at all levels at one of Ketchum’s specialty businesses. The goal was to engage in a productive dialogue about the elements of leadership that would serve the business for their next phase of growth. We wanted to honestly assess how current strengths and limitations would factor into their leadership development journey …

“The resulting stories each group told of the desired future state were comprehensive and vibrant. One group told this story:

As ambitious pioneers we began our journey … and have evolved into group of peaceful warriors … always going to have an entrepreneurial spirit … and while we are no longer pioneers, the fighter in us continues to exist … we need to become a group of supportive teachers … the challenge is that teaching is a trial by fire experience. Perhaps this is an area to build up and become stronger in, about how we educate and bring culture to life as well as teach each other new things … be interweaving streams, since we all come from different perspectives, different jobs, new environments … joining all these perspectives together we become one strong body of water … we are Ubuntu (I am because we are) … multiple bodies overlapping.

“I attribute the depth of the stories to the cards, which provide a shared language and rich landscape of vocabulary around leadership that the group would have been unlikely to access on their own.”

Read more stories, examples and how-to’s on the Leading Effectively blog:
Leadership Explorer™ tools.

You might also take a look at Can You Lead with Pictures?, an article about using visual thinking as a starting point for talking about complex or difficult things.

Ready to buy? Here’s how: Leadership Metaphor Explorer Facilitator’s Guide Set

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