The Metaphor of Motion

I often use a metaphor of motion to explain the connections between vision, relationships, and learning.

The goal of the leader is to move the group towards a goal. This requires motion.

Vision sets the direction. The change describes the destination, while the story of vision describes the path to get to that destination. This direction informs all aspects of the organization’s work. It describes what is useful and productive, and excludes what is not. It provides motivation and inspiration, and it brings the members of the group together in a community. Vision is the direction we must travel to reach the destination of our shared journey.

Relationships, then, are momentum. By creating relationships between people, we enable their individual, technical work to collectively carry the group in a direction. Relationships exist over time, and so they allow us to lead others to ongoing work, day after day, that produces the desired result. This gives the group the ongoing movement - literally, the work product — necessary to move towards the vision.

Together, direction and momentum - vision and relationships - are what make it possible for a group of people to accomplish things that a single person could not, through the creative and exponential effect of combining experience, ideas, energy, belief, and all of the other things that human beings bring into the group.

Finally, the physical force that we can apply is our learned behaviors. This is the only way that we can act upon the real world to create the other two functions. The things we say and do are the only way that we can take what is inside our heads and make it affect anther human being. Because of this, we must always be aware of the impact of our behaviors upon the momentum, to avoid roadblocks or speedbumps that stop the motion, and the direction, to avoid pushing people towards the wrong outcomes.

When we put the metaphor together, we must direct our learned behaviors towards creating relationships that support the vision. Our behavior starts as a push that builds momentum in the right direction. If we sustain this motion for long enough, then we will reach the destination - the group will accomplish their goal.

This metaphor is powerful in that it helps us see the roles of each of the three functions of leadership, and it demonstrates the connections between and uniqueness of each function.

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