The Tub - a Metaphor of Concept Development

As I mentioned before, when I asked people to define leadership, many of the definitions included what I came to call “the three Ts”. When I heard these answers, I knew they weren’t right, but I didn’t have a solid reason to say no - I didn’t have the definition.

I knew my challenge wouldn’t be to just put in everything that was leadership - I’d also have to exclude some things that weren’t leadership, but kept coming up. And I’d have to know why I was leaving these things out.

So I started to explore and categorize.

Here’s the best way I know to explain what happened next.

Imagine one of those big plastic tubs, the kind we stuff all of the things we don’t need at the minute but expect to need some day. They’re generally blue, black, or clear. They stack, they are heavy when full and never fit quite right in the space we intended, and the lids never seem to match the tub.

I have one tub, and this tub is leadership.

So I went out and tried to find every single “thing” of leadership. For the sake of the metaphor, imagine each idea is a ball. They’re all different sizes, shapes, colors, and inflated to various pressures. And there are lots of them. Each of these balls is something like a theory, a book, a tactic, a saying, and so on - and each on is represented as being part of leadership.