He Who Speaks Well, Fights Well
It’s been said that he who speaks well, fights well. From a business-writing perspective, your “fights” are typically attempts to persuade or influence others. And, leadership, according to guru John Maxwell, “is influence. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.”
Include the metaphor in your leadership-language. It allows you to make the unfamiliar more understandable. To make the complex more simple. To encapsulate a situation in just a few apt words. It helps you make your arguments-spoken or written-more convincing.
The metaphor is simply a comparison between two things not usually compared. For example, when asked about the movie Fahrenheit 9/11, a Bush White House spokesperson compared the administration to an eagle and Michael Moore, the movie’s producer, to a lesser creature: “The eagle doesn’t talk to
a fly,” they told reporters.
Don’t Dilute the Power of the Metaphor
1) Don’t mix your metaphors. Once you’ve decided upon an image, maintain its integrity. Don’t confuse your reader by bringing in a second image. If you refer to a leader as the captain of a ship, don’t muddy the waters he sails. Don’t, for example, refer to him as the canary in a coal mine.
2) Relate the image to current circumstances. Virtually any comparison will work to persuade others. But, it will only work if the connection is made to the topic under discussion. If you spoke of the above captain only in nautical terms, you would have failed to make the connection. Correlate
the sea image to the actual business problem or issue at hand.
3) Be original. Phrases such as “our children are our future” are true statements. But, they’ve been used so often, they’ve lost their punch. Note, by comparison, the power of Lon Watters’ idea: “School is a building that has four walls with tomorrow inside.” It’s a similar idea but its
originality makes it much more potent.
If you’re stuck in the metaphorical mud of ordinary expression, try rising above the mire via an original metaphor.
About the Author:
Dr. Marlene Caroselli is the author of 60 business books and one, just-released e-book: “Principled Persuasion–Influence with Integrity, Sell with Standards” (named a Director’s Choice by Doubleday Book Club when it first appeared in print). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org re: keynotes, training, curricula and books available for