Aristotle called it the “greatest thing by far.” The Greek philosopher said it is the “one thing that cannot be learned from others.”
And Aristotle –the famed student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander The Great– flatly states it is a “sign of genius.”
It is the metaphor—a word or phrase used to symbolize something else.
Aristotle said the comparison implies an intuitive perception of the “similarity in the dissimilar.”
That’s why the first cars were called “horseless carriages.” And that’s why dentists are known as Smile Stylists.
But the most significant value of a metaphor –the sign of genius—involves your ability to define and refine a metaphor’s attributes that govern your ability to lead effectively with emotional intelligence and teach inclusively with empathetic understanding.
But first to understand others, we need to understand ourselves. That’s what Aristotle’s mentor Plato said echoing his mentor Socrates: Know Thyself.
And indeed, a well-conceived metaphor can help you identify your genius –or your distinctive character or guardian spirit according to the dictionary — in addition to the extent of your intellectual capacity.
Let’s see how you might define your genius using a metaphor (or simile which adds the bridge word “like.”)
What could you learn about yourself if you thought of yourself like a sheepdog in teaching others ( a simile) or as a sheepdog teaching others (a metaphor)? Parker Palmer assesses his sheepdog metaphor in his book The Courage to Teach:
“My students must feed themselves – that is called active learning. I must take them to where food is available: a good text, a well-planned exercise a generative question, a disciplined conversation.
Then I must them move to the next feeding ground. I must hold the group with those places, paying special attention to individuals who get lost or run away—and all the while I must protect the group from deadly predators – like fear.”
But there’s even more insight hidden in the shadows whenever a metaphor shines a spotlight on your optimum behaviors. The most effective leaders/teachers realize that too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
After all the sheepdog metaphor can galvanize the teacher’s mindset to think of his or her students as mindless or even docile.
Yet the metaphor can also serve as a bellwether to spark more improved teaching and a more cognizant teacher and ultimately a more effective leader. “If the sheepdog metaphor does nothing but keep me alert to the appearance of my own shadow, it will have served me and my students well, ” Palmer writes.
In fact as a bellwether, the metaphor can serve as an early alarm to tread carefully.
In fact the concept of a bellwether is significant since the word itself stems from the practice of tying a bell around neck of one sheep in their flock, thereby designating it the lead sheep.
This animal was called the bellwether, a word formed by a combination of the Middle English words belle (meaning “bell”) and wether (a noun that refers to a male sheep that has been castrated), “according to the dictionary.
Discover your own bellwether imbued in your metaphor.
And just think how your performance and subsequent results could be affected if you thought of your leading and teaching as if you were a waterfall, or a mountain stream, a mountain or a molehill, or a tulip or rainstorm?
Take the time to learn something significant about your own leadership and or teaching ability. Ring your own bellwether and find your “greatest thing be far.”
For more tips on developing your own metaphors to persuade others, consider purchasing a copy of SPEAKING Like a Leader, the 300-page book now available on Amazon.com.
SPEAKING Like a Leader is part of the Leadership Mints Series that also includes a book on creativity —THINKING Like a Leader , a 296-page book filled with 77 Leadership Mints and a 300-page book on empathy filled with 77 more Leadership Mints-LOVING Like a Leader.
All three books in The Leadership Mints Series are designed for busy leaders seeking to refresh their feeling for leading in 5-minutes or less — the average reading of a Leadership Mint.
in The Leadership Mints Series
available on Amazon.com
in print and e-book
What ‘s a Leadership Mint?
Consumed like a breath mint — quick and on-the-go — a Leadership Mint is a short story that energizes leadership behaviors and personalizes leadership principles so they are more easily remembered, more readily acted upon and more fully applied.