Row, Row Your Boat with an Analogy

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you cope with stressful situations. Reading time: 2:54

       Pushing a heavy wooden chair to the kitchen sink, the 6-year-old confidently climbed up. Stood on the seat. running-waterTurned on the water and started scrubbing a frying pan. With vigor.

      “Row, Row, Row your boat gently down the stream,” Laura began singing and scrubbing. She was working so hard and yet having so much fun.

      Laura’s having-fun-while-scrubbing-pans caught the attention of her mom who wanted to know her daughter’s secret for making work fun.

      Laura stopped singing long enough to explain the water flowing out of the faucet reminded her of the “water coming out of a hose in the summertime.” And her chair  was really a rowboat. The faster she scrubbed, Laura said, the faster the boat rowed.

     “Row, Row, Row….

      What fun! And what a fun way for her mom to recall the persuasive power of an analogy — a key leadership skill that helps leaders and their followers better adapt to situations and more fully cope with challenges. Consider a few other examples of analogies used as a leadership tools: 

Organizing Meaning

Row, Row, Row Your Boat...

Row, Row, Row Your Boat…


        “Men are like microwave ovens, ready at the push of a button. Women are like crock pots. They need time to warm up,” notes Gary Smalley, author on relationships.


     Gary Trudeau,  the author of the Doonesbury comic strip told his college student audience to think of his 20-minute speech as the equivalent of four music videos.


        Classic car buffs will tell you that convertibles used to have a plastic window in the back. Over time the plastic would yellow but  you could still see through it. As that plastic window yellowed you could no longer see through it. You had replaced that plastic window. Your eye also has a piece of plastic over it that has yellowed explained an eye doctor. It’s called a cataract.


         Dolby stereo sound is like a sonic laundry, an engineer explained. It washes the dirt (noise) out of the clothes (the signal) without disturbing the clothes.

        That’s the power of an analogy to enhance understanding.  No wonder Tom Peters writes in his book Thriving on Chaos that “an essential factor in leadership is the capacity to influence and organize meaning for members of the organization.”

        Sometimes with an analogy. Even while scrubbing pans.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Use analogies to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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