Management Essay Example: Metaphors in Organizational Management

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Middlebury College
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A metaphor refers to a figure of speech whereby a word, phrase, or object is applied to an action, process or thing to which it is not literally applicable. Metaphors enhance peoples thinking and conceptions by utilizing the images to make sense of scenarios, processes, actions, and people. Metaphoric thinking is valuable in understanding organizations and how individuals coordinate with each other through actions and directives to push for the achievement of objectives. Organizations, organizational change and management styles can be well understood through the use of metaphors, as Gareth Morgan proposes not only in his book Imaginization but also in Images of Organization.' Imaginization was written after Images of organization to build on his concepts of imagery using metaphors. With this knowledge, it is mandatory to scoop these ideologies from the beginning (Morgan, 1995).

Morgan propagates theories of management and organization are based on a subtle or implicit metaphor. While metaphors play paradoxical roles in understanding organizational management and other aspects, they have been found to limit, ignore or background some elements of the organization. So significant first is the all-round conceptualization of Morgans metaphoric concepts from Images of Organization because it is based on various metaphors that describe management styles of organization engraved in particular metaphors. Such metaphors include the view of an organization as a machine, an organism, brain, culture, an instrument of domination, a political system, a psychic prison and finally as flux and transformation. Deeper insights in organizational management will conform to the fact that various processes and communication will agree for goals to be achieved. Morgan thinks that in one way or another, organizational thinking is based on one or two of these metaphors. While there are various metaphors used by Morgan(2009), this paper discusses two in every category of organizational leadership style, managers style, and the possible personal leadership styles.

Metaphors for Organizational Leadership

Organization as a machine: An organization incorporates various input and output processes in order to maximize aspects like production. The inputs include all the efforts, training, and fidelity to organizational visions. This metaphor talks of how the driving force behind the management of an organization is instrumental for every objective to fall in place. For parts of a machine including the engine to work efficiently, they should be oiled, tightened, well connected and coordinated so that the end product can be achieved. Whenever everything is progressing smoothly in an organization regarding management, the operation is considered to run like a clockwork.' But when there is a problem such as a breakdown in communication, then it is described as a spanner in the works that need to be fixed for the assembly line to work smoothly.

Organization as a brain: Morgan (1995) attributes this metaphoric concept to incorporate issues like learning, mindset, intelligence, Knowledge, parallel processing, requisite variety, networks, and feedback. All these components represent the channels of operations of the brain which pulls all the strings in organizational management. The brain is the cognitive engine of learning, knowledge, and intelligence. Job training and workshops can be organized by the management to enhance these aspects. It is the responsibility of the leadership and management departments in an organization to build networks, and the use generated feedback from clients to make the services better and augment their processing strategies.

Metaphors Describing the Managers Styles of Leadership

Morgans leadership metaphors are embodied certain characters such as the philosopher, the spider plant, the mentor, the instructor, and the coach among others in some of the case studies he cites in the book Imaginization.'

The manager as the philosopher: In an organization, the manager should participate or be involved in coming up with the creative or epistemic practices aimed at scrutinizing what is accepted or not accepted within the domains of that organization. For the haute cuisine case, for example, the philosopher is interested in changing the world to a better one by writing down their culinary styles and philosophies. Chefs, just like philosophers in the modern times, would want to stretch the boundaries of the cooking domains. The array of ingredients and varied, unique cooking styles and recipes result in a delicious product which is food. This is the principle of creativity that metaphors propagate.

The manager as the spider plant: This metaphor refers to the manager as a spider plant in an attempt to explain the theory of team and project management. In the beginning stages of development of a spider plant, it outgrows its pot as its shoot seek the support of the mother plant till it fully establishes its own and can sustain itself. As per these characteristics, an organizations development begins from what is contained in the pot. The central spot, which can be any department, is fed by the offshoots which include the individuals in that department and their roles. Without the support of the offshoots, the central plant will die and so is the department when relevant individuals fail in their responsibilities. In other words, the offshoots represent the channels through which resources flow and the required values which consolidate the department or organizational identity or strength. The manager should understand the dynamics of leading teams, providing support and coming up with initiatives which can diversify production.

Metaphors Describing My Leadership Styles

On a personal level, from some gathered and learned experiences as far as organizational management is concerned, I would consider my leadership styles to be metaphorically represented by the instructor and the mentor.

Leadership style as the instructor: An instructor ensures that procedures are followed when dealing with teams, departments and the whole organization. Instructors are the facilitators; this does not mean that they are not creative but are in a better position to capitalize on or protect the previous paradigms of creative leadership. Instructors hardly entertain mediocrity and would like to teach and follow the development of their apprentices. Instructors can get angry and disappointed with sloppy or careless apprentices, and this explains why economically successful chefs are so. I would like to add a personal and original touch to my management and leadership style.

Leadership style as the mentor: This metaphor facilitates professionally experienced leaders who are very admirable. In most cases, the mentor is someone who has contributed immensely in the field of management and leadership. Some have written widely and taught for years in the higher academic echelons. I would like this style because mentors know exactly lies around the corner, what can open doors and what can keep them open. The mentor can inspire people to achieve their best and perform beyond imaginable limits. In managing people in organizations, mentorship to other workers by senior personnel imparts valuable leadership knowledge which can be very vital for the understanding people and the development of organizations.


Metaphors can provide a better understanding of organizational management and development. The images carried by metaphors represent the typical organizational dynamics important for managers, facilitators, and consultants who hold interests in dealing with people as well as doing the necessary procedures to achieve organizational goals and objectives.



Morgan, G. (1995). Imaginization: The art of creative management. Newbury Park, California : Sage Publications.

Morgan, G. (2009). Images of organization. Thousand Oaks, California : SAGE Publications.


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