Posts Tagged With: Metaphor

Hike Leadership Metaphors Forward – Quarterback

Johnny Unitas

Back in my early childhood, Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr were my favorite quarterbacks in professional football, then I remember the scramblings of Fran Tarkenton, Broadway Joe Namath, and the consistent Roger Staubach. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana filled my TV screens on Sundays in early 80s and then there were the highlights of Dan Marion and John Elway in the 90s. The early 21st century brought Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Kurt Warner to my list of great QBs. I don’t watch the NFL much anymore, but I still enjoy watching college ball – go Buckeyes!

That was a rather long first paragraph just to introduce the position of quarterback, but if the names brought memories to your mind, then not much more needs to be said about the importance of the QB to the success of a football team. He controls the tempo and the flow of the game. His actions (good or bad) have a huge impact on the outcome on the game. I think the quarterback is a powerful metaphor for the organizational leader. Let’s take four snaps of the ball to see if we can score with this analogy.

First Down – The quarterback directs the team in the huddle. Whether the play comes in from the sideline or the QB calls the play himself, the quarterback communicates the play to the team in the huddle before the team moves to the line of scrimmage. The team is confident that everyone on the team knows the play and that the quarterback will put the play into action enabling each team member to do his part as designed.

An effective leader knows the play, whether the board has provided the direction, or the leader has personally developed the strategy. The leader must then be articulate and clear as he/she communicates to every member of the team/organization. Every person in the company must be on the same page  before the day begins. With clear communication comes confidence (notice the 4 C’s or is that the Four Seas?) in the leader and the plan. Making sure that everyone knows the mission, the QB enables each person to use his/her talents and positions and authority to accomplish the goal. The quarterback leader is the communicator

Second Down – The quarterback needs to make quick decisions. He handles the ball every down and must decide to run, hand the ball off to a running back, or pass the ball to one of his receivers. On many designed plays, the quarterback must decide which option is the best one. One option is to keep the ball and carry the ball forward himself. Another option is to hand the ball off to a teammate and trust the running back to gain yardage while protecting the ball. Or the QB can pass the ball to one of several receivers. The quarterback must be able to see the whole field and quickly spot the open receiver with the best shot of catching the pass.

The organizational leader needs to run with the ball sometimes, hand it off to a trusted co-worker at other times, and on other occaisions throw the ball into the outstretched arms of a colleague. Initiative, trust, and delegation are all options for the leader. Discernment in decision making is critical for his/her success. There are somethings that are in the “Do It Yourself” category because of convenience or expectation or necessity. Other activities present opportunities to hand off to others in order to help the team member grow or to utilize the giftedness and talents of those within the organization. Passing responsibilities to others is sometimes imperative but the right receiver must be selected. The pass is a risk but the results can be significant.

Third Down – The quarterback must know when to change the play from the one called in the huddle. The QB must know how to read the defensive formation of the other team and decide if the planned play needs to be altered. If a change is needed, the QB calls an audible while the team is on the line of scrimmage. Through a series of symbolic words, the quarterback communicates to the entire team the change in the play before the ball is hiked. Every player must know the play and the count in order to start together. If one moves earlier than the others, it is a penalty. If someone begins late, the play is usually not effective as timing is often critical to the team’s strategy.

The quarterback leader must call audibles occasionally. As the leader sees the whole playing field and the details of a particular situation, he/she must quickly change the plans and direction of the day. The change must be communicated well and thoroughly to the entire organization. This communication might not be easy, but it is essential, if the change is to be effective.   

Fourth Down – The quarterback is not a coach on the sidelines, but a player in the midst of the game. He is not cheering from the bench, rather he is executing the play from the front line. The quarterback calls the signals to start the play. The quarterback both coordinates the play and participates in the action.  The actions of the quarterback impact every offensive play and dictates the responses of every other member of the team.

The quarterback leader might from time to time be a coach (mentor) and a cheerleader (filled with raise and encouragement), but when he/she is the quarterback, he/she is actively involved in the mission and workings of the organization. His/her sleaves are rolled up and his/her presence is front and center. He/she is visible as the wheels turn in the workings of the company. The leader must recognize the importance of his/her behaviors and should make the most of his/her positive impact on the other stakeholders in the organization.    

Touchdown!! I hope.

Photos: Johnny Unitas – (519) Pinterest; Football – Wilson TDS NFL Official Size 9 Rubber Cover American Sports Football Wtf1858 for sale online | eBay

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Hike Leadership Metaphors Forward: The Keeper

I became a soccer fan when I moved to Dayton, Ohio and became an administrator of the school with a long tradition of good soccer. My interest increased as my two youngest sons began to play. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the strategy of the triangles and the chess match between offense and defense. I also became quite interested in the goalie, the Keeper. One of sons played on a team with a very talented goalkeeper. I watched him warm up as he practiced moving to his right and diving to his left to wrap-up a ball kicked toward the goal. In addition, this young man could jump and tip the high ball over the top of the goal mouth. As I reflected on those many games as an observer, I began to see a powerful metaphor of leadership emerge from the player with the different colored jersey and special gloves, standing in the goal, determined not to let the other team score.

Let’s look at a gloved-hand-full-of-ways (five) that a leader is like a Keeper. If you know a lot about soccer or if you had the opportunity to stand in the box, you will probably have twice as many insights as I have presented in this short blog. I would love to steal (I mean…hear) your insights. I primarily watched my sons play, so my pronouns are masculine, but I honor and respect those women who are good Keepers and excellent Leaders.

One, the Keeper has a unique perspective of the entire field from his vantage point. He can see each of his teammates as well as the positions of the opponents. He has the opportunity and responsibility to communicate and coordinate the entire defense as the ball comes toward goal. This reminds me so much of the challenge of leadership. Seeing the entire ministry of the organization, every aspect of the team, every building block of the business is the leader’s responsibility. The leader must position each of his teammates in the optimal position for success. One employee, no matter how talented, out of position can be costly to the success of the company. Seeing the field, knowing the strengths of each teammate, and understanding the strategy/mission of the organization, must remain in clear focus it the leader expects to be able to make a split-second decision leading to success.  

Two, my school never lost a game, when the Keeper did not give up a goal. Our Keeper was the last and often the strongest line of defense. He threw himself at the ball to stop a score. He jumped, rolled, stretched, kicked, caught, and batted the ball in order to control the outcome of the game. A good Keeper seems to have an inner sense of knowing here the ball is going to go, where the other team’s offense is planning to attack and the ability to position himself to counter that offense at just the right time. In leadership, the other team is most often not a competitor (although that sure happens), but rather it is the opponent of time, resources, finances, facilities, or morale that causes a goal to be scored against us. The effective leader just seems to know the challenges facing the organization. He throws himself at the opposition and uses everything at his disposal to prepare for the opposition.

Three, the Keeper is the only player to able to use his hands – a special advantage. He must be able to use all his skills to master his position. He must be able to catch, punt, and throw with great accuracy. As he makes a save, he must be able to transfer the ball quickly and safely to a teammate to move the ball in the other direction. He must have the skills to change the mindset of his team from defense to offense. An organizational leader must have multiple skills that will enable him to address the overall context of the team. He must be an expert in his abilities – being able to catch, throw, and kick – being able to analyze, communicate, and create – being able to inspire, encourage, and dream – being able to plan, organize, and manage.    

Four, the Keeper must be able to shake off a goal scored against him and maintain a sense of confidence in his team. I have seen many goalies that hang their heads in defeat when a ball gets by him and ends up in the net. I have seen discouragement, anger, and even fear in the downcast eyes of a Keeper who failed to make the save. But I have also seen the quick recovery: the determined clap of the hands; the shouts of encouragement to teammates; the focus in the eyes; and a physical shake-off of the disappointment (the shaking of the arms, the bouncing in the toes, the ritual of movement from one end of the goal to the other). An effective leader understands that he will not always succeed; he will not stop every shot; he will experience disappointment. But that leader also understand that he must shake it off and keep moving forward. He knows that with disappointment comes determination, with failure comes focus, with misjudgment comes motivation, if the leader can process the situation as a learning experience.  

FIve, the Keeper has the ability to verbally encourage his teammates and inspire confidence in their victory. He serves as the coach on the field. Because of his knowledge of the game, the relationships he has built with his teammates, and his unique vantagepoint on the field, the team listens to the Keeper and trusts the judgment of his directions. The organizational leader must also inspire his team with words of encouragement and with his passionate heartbeat for the mission of the company. If the leader has the trust and confidence of the employees, they will listen to his direction and react in unity.   

The next time you attend a soccer game, watch the Keeper and look for lessons in leadership.

Photo of Keeper Goal keeper – 15 free HQ online Puzzle Games on Newcastlebeach 2020!

Photo of Soccer Ball 3D asset Soccer Ball with Play Ground | CGTrader

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Hike Leadership Metaphors Forward – #3 The Coach

An effective organization leader – how shall I describe you. An organizational leader is like a coach. Why a coach? Let’s consider the in the following:

One, a coach teaches offense. You cannot win if you cannot score.

In the same way, leaders need to share what winning looks like in the organization. Leaders must be consistent in communicating the mission and vision of the company. Why do they exist? What is their purpose? What is the good work to be accomplished? A leader must point his/her team to score and be successful in making their vision become a reality.

Two, a coach teaches defense. The opponent cannot win if he does not score.

An effective leader must identify the hurdles, the challenges, and the adversaries of the organization. Most of the time it is not the competition that is the enemy, it is rather the disunity of the stakeholders, the internal strife among employees, the lack of accurate communication, and the personal agendas that oppose the direction of the team. As the leader prepares the organization for these enemies, the company can develop a strong defense and outfit themselves in the proper armor pleasing to the ethics of the company.

Three, a coach teaches strategy. A game plan must include the best way to use the strengths of the team and find cracks in the approach of the opponents.

The leader must have a plan. One of the most powerful documents that a company can develop is a five-year plan. A good long-range plan must not only have goals of growth and development, goals of productivity and value, but also the ethical goals of integrity and quality, the internal goals of building community and professional growth.

Four, a coach identifies the weakness of his players and works on improving them. A good coach knows each player and evaluates his/her weaknesses. Practice whittles away the sharp edges and burns off the dross. Instilling discipline elevates the players to a new level.

An impactful leader will know each member of his team. The leader will be committed to the development and success of each team member. Professional and personal development should be uniquely designed for every worker, as the leader strives to improve the areas that will best benefit the career of the employee. 

Five, coach recognize the strengths of his players and works on highlighting them. Weakness are important to improve, but the strengths of a player need to be maximized because these are the keys to greatness. A good coach possesses the ability to see those strengths in each player and to nurture them in order for the team to draw upon the uniqueness of every member.

An organizational leader must be able to sit behind the desk of every employee and project out five years; dream of the role that employee might play in the future; visualize the gifts and talents of that employee and how they can be best enhanced; evaluate the imperative contributions that each person can provide for the company. The leader should begin to cast a vision, not just of the organization as a whole, but the place that each employee could play in reaching their mission

Six, a coach cheers, supports, disciplines, inspires, and develops his players. A coach must know his/her players and how to motivate each one. Some players need encouragement via the words of praise, others need a slightly raised voice of rebuke, others need the speech of responsibility, and others need a reminder of their potential. A good coach will be able to discern the needs of each player while inspiring the entire team.

This statement seems to support a situational leadership style, but I do not totally buy into this model of leadership. I support the concept of servant leadership where the leader is putting the needs of the individual team member above his own. Part of the servanthood is to provide what the individual needs – not necessarily what they want, but what they need. As the leader looks at inspiring his team, some members need a cheerleader, others some constructive criticism, others a warning, and others an extra-measure of forgiveness and a second chance. 

An organizational leader serves his organization like a coach in many critical ways.

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