Action Wheel Leadership

Leadership Metaphors

Action Wheel Leadership Site Map

The leadership metaphor of mission is that life is a journey. Each leadership metaphor represents one of the Action Wheel dimensions of leadership as developed in Dr. Robert Terry's book Authentic Leadership: Courage In Action.  


Leadership Metaphors Mission

Action Wheel Dimension: Mission

Leadership Metaphor: Life is a Journey

Patricia Hampl (1987) captures the essence and the paradox of the journey metaphor in the context of a comment about composer Antonin Dvorak's summer vacation in Spillville, Iowa: "There can be no pilgrimage without a destination, but the destination is also not the real point of the endeavor.

Not the destination, but the willingness to wander in pursuit characterizes pilgrimage.

Willingness to hear the tales along the way, to make the casual choices of travel, to acquiesce, even to boredom. That's a pilgrimage—a mind full of journey." (p. 21)

Journey directs our attention inward and outward, highlighting the connection of self to community, nature, and God, while stressing our creative capacity to chart our own course.

The leadership challenges in the mission dimension are:

  • Anticipating the Future
  • Planning the Future

Anticipating the Future

Leadership recognizes that the world does not always go where one wants it to. Leadership creates ways to anticipate where the world is going. Actions include tracking trends, discussing emerging threats and opportunities, hiring futurists and building scenarios of the future. The organization practices for events that might occur in the future, trying to find the best position for itself.

Core Ideas:

Anticipating the Future focuses on how the organization achieves its vision. Once the organization has initiated action it is critical to listen: to attend to each other and be aware of what is happening. To anticipate change, it is important to scan outward, look for open spaces and scan inward. A change in perspective or reframing the situation may result.

When we are frightened and challenged by an unpredictable future, leadership should emerge to inspire stakeholders in their pursuit of the vision. The challenge for authentic action is to look for possibilities and actions that prepare the organization for the unexpected. The more the world moves toward uncertainty of outcome and lack of agreement on direction, the greater the need for attention to this dimension.

Courage, creativity and wisdom take center stage in this dimension as leadership takes on previously unknown and untested dimensions. Anticipating change is a journey, focused not only on the destination. As the destination changes we are invited in new directions, toward new possibilities and goals.

"Authentic Thinking:" Consistently commit time and energy to asking and answering the question "What is true and real, inside and outside, every day?"

Planning the Future

The leadership challenge in the mission dimension is now to create a preferred picture of the future and conceive strategic intent to direct the entire organization. This vision of the preferred future is built by engaging input from all stakeholders: customers, the marketplace, employees, shareholders and vendors. The shared vision shapes the direction of the organization.

Shaping the Future – Setting Direction, concentrates on the organization's vision, strategic intent or preferred future. The organization must create an image of the future that will guide their action. The organizational vision must be focused. Stakeholders find common ground and act in concert toward a shared future. Vision images excite the imagination and stimulate action of stakeholders. The organization's strategic intent guides the stakeholders' understanding of shared direction. When organizational members rally around ethical principles, attend to each other, share a common vision, a strategic intent and organizational mission, they engage in authentic action.

Vision statements can offer guidance to organizations but they frequently inspire little energy. Full vision work, futuring, constructs a comprehensive picture of the organization's preferred future, turning the glimpse of insight of the vision statement into a full-blown image of that future.

Core Ideas:

  • Preferred Futuring: For vision to engage stakeholders they must have a voice in shaping it. A comprehensive organizational vision will address these eight subsystems:

    Cultural subsystemDirection subsystemProcess subsystemPolitical subsystemPeople subsystemInformation subsystemFinancial subsystem Facilities and equipment subsystem (BruceGibb, 1997, used with permission)
    Broad participation of stakeholders is crucial as the direction of the organization is collaboratively shaped. Top management and all other participants must see the value of the process and believe that, collectively, members of the organization can effectively shape their own future.
  • Strategic Intent: focuses the energy of the stakeholders and aims to achieve understanding of shared direction. Strategic intent emerges from a foundation set by solid identity, organizational capabilities, and resilience. Whereas, strategic planning attends to formal processes of intervention, strategic intent creates the energy for emergent strategic thinking and action by allowing for shifts in this uncertain world. Strategic intent is lived every day by large numbers of people in the organization while strategic planning is executive-driven with an expectation that workers 'buy-in'.

Related Links:

Leadership Metaphors

Leadership Metaphors: Existence

Leadership Metaphors: Resources

Leadership Metaphors: Structure

Leadership Metaphors: Power

Leadership Metaphors: Meaning

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