Action Wheel Leadership

Leadership Metaphors

Action Wheel Leadership Site Map

The leadership metaphors power page teaches the leadership metaphor view that life is a conflict between ups versus downs. 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 Power

Action Wheel Dimension: Power

Leadership Metaphor: Life is a Conflict Between Ups Versus Downs

Our everyday speech contains many up-down metaphors, each reflecting the belief that up is better than down. It's easy to come up with a number of examples:

  • The heights of ecstasy; the depths of despair
  • Lower than a snake’s belly
  • Morale is up; morale is down
  • Elevated to bishop
  • I’m not up to doing that
  • I’m under the weather
  • I’m down at the mouth
  • The computer is being upgraded
  • I am downhearted

They are beneath contempt

Those who order their lives in terms of up and down believe that the body metaphor disguises fundamental conflicts in a society that is a battleground of irreconcilable vested interests.

Only through resistance and constant organizing will the oppressed downs eventually overthrow the powerful ups.

The leadership challenge in this dimension is to create a shift from positional power to shared power. Leadership recognizes that shared power and active participation create vested ownership. Channels are created to shift power to where it is most needed in the organization. Leadership shifts from specific positions to essentially everywhere. The entire organization must have the courage to learn together. This requires humility, listening astutely, being rigorously open, speaking up, trust, and sharing power.

Core Ideas:

Power is making and keeping decisions over time. Leadership, here, is creating ownership through shared power and participation. A tremendous challenge for leadership is to turn destructive power into participatory codetermination.

Leadership engages others. When leadership is engagement, power no longer lives exclusively at the top of the organization. Channels are created to move power to where it is most needed within the organization.

Ownership Through Shared Power and Participation

  • Stakeholders want voice. Shifting from buy-in to ownership, stakeholders codetermine the organization’s outcome with others, not just agree with and follow the one in the position of power.
  • Participation makes an organization "work". It requires great courage on the part of a leader to champion participation. It requires great confidence that everyone can come together, dialogue and collectively decide on important matters affecting all of them.
  • Courageous communication is required to challenge the authoritarian way of thinking, current mindset, cultural assumptions, "group-think".

Qualities Needed For Sharing Power - Empowerment

The top of an organization cannot empower a workforce. The top of the organization can set up a context and create the circumstances so people can empower themselves. The voice of the stakeholders and multi-perspective thinking are features of action in the Power Dimension. Power shifts to anywhere it is needed in the organization.

To achieve ownership through shared power and participation, the following qualities must be nurtured and valued within the organization:

  • courage
  • humility
  • astute listening
  • rigorous openness
  • using one’s voice; speaking up
  • trust
  • trustworthiness
  • clear, concise communication
  • commitment to shared power

Related Links:

Parable of Ups and Downs

Leadership Metaphors

Leadership Metaphors: Existence

Leadership Metaphors: Resources

Leadership Metaphors: Structure

Leadership Metaphors: Mission

Leadership Metaphors: Meaning

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