My Leadership Metaphor

So I have this metaphor for leadership…lol. Bare with me, it’s from my mind so it might be sort of…cray cray. lol

It came about when I saw a post on Facebook of a friend trying to explain the proper use of chopsticks to another mutual friend. Now, for some reason it got me thinking about leadership and how chopsticks are a pretty good metaphor for the basics of being a good leader. (Yeah…welcome to how my mind works and connects things:))

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer
Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

With chopsticks, there are two equal length sticks. Some say there is an art to using them while others say that a monkey could learn. However, the basics of using chopsticks is that the lower chopstick is stationary, and rests at the base of the thumb, and between the ring finger and middle finger. The second chopstick is held, using the tips of the thumb and index finger, and it is moved while eating, to pull food into the grasp of the chopsticks.

Now, like the lower chopstick, there are times for us to be “stationary” leaders. Those times when consistent and steady leadership is needed to ensure continuity. These times could be when there are an over abundance of staff changes in your department, student leader transitions, or even institutional changes. Times like these, its more important to be consistent, steadfast and ensuring services rather than to get our “Maverick” on.

Other times we, as Student Affairs professionals, are required to be more like the second chopstick and be a bit more hands on and mobile. These are the times we are able to get our “Maverick” on. In these situation we take a more active and “moving” leadership role. These might be times when issues need to be addressed or pushed forward, programs need to be created regardless of how full our plates are, or when new policies or procedures need to be written or re-written for the betterment of our students and respective institutions.

And of course the desired end result of each of these periods of leadership, be it steady or moving, is to get the food/teachable moments to the students, ourselves and/or each other so we can digest and grow. 🙂

However, let me also throw in one final use of the chopsticks metaphor to recognize those who are not able to utilize them well, and because sometimes I’m just hungry and not in a very coordinating and serene manner for chopsticks. (#Includer Strength) Every once in a while, for one reason or another, (i.e. lack of volunteers, unmotivated staff or inability to delegate) we have to just take both sticks and stab the issue, conversation, lesson or situation and do whatever we can to ensure it will reach the population for consumption.

So there you have it. My first Student Affairs metaphor. 🙂 Still a bit of work in progress, but for the most part I hope you enjoy it and that it gave you a new perspective to talk about leadership from!

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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