Friday, November 22, 2002

Metaphorically Maternal

Among his ongoing commentaries about the politics and poker in America today, bix links to Ellen Goodman’s article about Nancy Pelosi – but he left out something Goodman said that I’d like to highlight.

Goodman says
It's barely a week since Nancy Pelosi became minority leader, and there's already been a regime change of metaphors. Out with sports; in with food…… On ''Meet the Press,'' the woman who became head of the Democratic Household cheerily compared her postelection fate to the patriotic poultry…… ''You know the story. It's like the Thanksgiving turkey,'' she said. ''You bring it out, you get this great honor, everybody oohs and ahs ... and then they begin to carve you up.'

Having worked for almost twenty years for the CEO of a government agency division who is a woman and who made a point of using non-sports metaphors, I saw how a corporate culture is affected by the metaphorical language used by its leader. My former boss tends to use family and home-based metaphors, which reflect a collaborative, sibling approach to management. Most of the managers reporting to her are men, and their tendency is to use sports metaphors, which reflect competitive, hierarchical values. Over the years, her metaphors have reinforced the management messages she tries to communicate. The culture of the organization has become such that employees from other parts of the agency keep looking for job openings with her operation. And, under her leadership, the units for which she is responsible have gained great respect and support from the government agencies that provide her funding.

Language. Voice. Metaphor. More powerful than the sword -- for both good and ill.
(double posted on my own blog)

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