Leadership as a metaphor: monitoring, management, leadership and agency of change


I have been reflecting on the idea of ​​monitoring, managing, leading and becoming an agent of social change. As a leadership teacher with over 10 years of classroom experience, I have come to the conclusion that metaphors and stories are the most effective teaching and learning tools we have access to. Over the years, I have used many different metaphors to capture the spirit, essence, and logic of leadership as a tool and process for generating sustainable social change. In fact, I have learned that nothing clarifies and speaks like a good metaphor. The main objective of this article is to frame the concepts of monitoring, management, leadership and social change agency within a context that makes sense and can be transferred and applied on an individual level, but also within a teaching and learning environment.

A metaphor: to paint or not to paint

Like any good metaphor, at first glance it is simple, but after further investigation it is easily problematized or complex. For a moment … let’s think about the painting. The art of painting will frame our metaphor. Our human levels of analysis and key connections through painting preference are as follows:

• The follower: As a painter, the follower feels more comfortable searching, organizing and maintaining painting resources, supporting the artist and making sure that both the gallery and the studio are in order. In fact, Sivers (2010) suggests that the first follower is perhaps the most important ingredient for a movement or a cause. The first follower turns a lone madman into a leader.

• The manager: As a painter, the manager feels more comfortable painting by number and seeks to manage change, operationalize the vision and is process oriented. In this interpretation there is still room for creativity, but it is important that the correct default color is chosen, but some predetermined system or thinking and that the painting stays within the lines.

• The Leader: As a painter, the leader prefers a blank canvas and seeks to inspire transformation, determine and clarify vision, and develop people. Indeed, the leading painter enjoys the freedom and creativity to choose the type of paint to be used, to mix the colors of his own vision and need, and to orient the landscape of his masterpiece, all in a way that others can see themselves.

• The agent of social change: As a painter, the agent of social change is markedly different from others and depends on his ability to articulate a clear vision focused on unfamiliar territory, to ask informed and inspired questions, to work in silence with patience and persistence. break free from established structures, systems, and processes, and cross disciplinary boundaries connecting the seemingly disparate (Bornstein, 2003). In fact, many times the agent of social change is not known for his paintings. They are known for creating new media and supports.

parting thoughts

The most imperative thing to remember is that none of these juxtapositions and descriptions are intended to be based on a position or title within an organization. For me, this metaphor focuses on the mentality of an individual when he is in the space in which he feels most comfortable. Depending on the activity, the goal, the content, the process or the field, each of us, as individuals, can fall into each of these different categories (follower, manager, leader, agent of social change) according to our interest, ability and passion. The real question that each of us must ask ourselves, specifically if we have never ventured into the approach of art as an agent of social change, is “what is it that matters to me enough to do something in this world?” Once you discover this, articulate your position as an agent of social change!


Bornstein, D. (2003). How to change the world: Social entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sivers, D. (2010). How to start a movement. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement?language=en

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