The thing about metaphors and leadership

Date of this Version


Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Parry, K.W. (2008). The thing about metaphors and leadership. International leadership journal, 1(1), 6-23.

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2008 HERDC submission. FoR code: 1503

© Copyright The International Leadership Journal, 2008


Metaphors help with our sense-making. They can convey meaning in a very efficient way. The essence of leadership also involves sense-making in the minds of followers and of leaders. To the extent that metaphor and leadership have this common purpose, we might be able to conclude that metaphors have a significant role to play in the manifestation of leadership. We could conclude further that metaphors display the characteristics of leadership, and that metaphors are what followers might follow. Perhaps people follow the message inherent within a metaphor as much as they might follow the person who is the "leader." Research into metaphors has illustrated the role of emotion within the sensemaking that metaphors provide. The emotive impact of metaphor augments the cognitive impact upon followers. Therefore, metaphors are a valuable tool that people in leadership roles can use. Moreover, people in leadership roles have an obligation to understand the impact they are having on audiences with metaphors and other forms of sense-making that they are undertaking. Several propositions are generated from this examination of theory. Examples set within the Australian business context and within the Australian and U.S. political contexts bring these propositions to life.



This document has been peer reviewed.