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Using the Power of Resonant Metaphor to Increase Leadership Effectiveness

DNT Perkins, P Kessler, J Murphy International Journal of Coaching in Organizations 2009

Leaders and their coaches often use stories and images to communicate important messages. While many are aware that metaphors can be powerful, the precise reasons for their effectiveness may be less obvious. This article offers a framework for understanding the nature of metaphors; the reasons why metaphors have such a significant impact on human behavior; and the special characteristics of metaphors we characterize as “resonant.” The authors demonstrate how resonant metaphors – vivid, emotionally charged images and stories – act as powerful lenses that influence the way people see the world, themselves and others. Using case studies drawn from their experience as coaches, Perkins, Kessler, and Murphy outline approaches to finding and using resonant metaphors, and we list some important caveats for their application. By drawing on the power of resonant metaphors, coaches and the leaders they advise can increase their effectiveness and produce consequential change.

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