A Metaphor for Leadership

The other day my Dad, a retired Lt Colonel, shared a wonderful metaphor with me: the bugle.

The humble bugle was once an instrument of life and death. Before the modern era, troops in battle had difficulty receiving orders from their officers. The bugle call, clear and long across the battlefield, told soldiers what their leaders wanted them to do. If the bugle’s sound was unclear, muffled, or incorrect, soldiers were left without direction. Victory depended on an officer’s clarity of vision, strength of organization, and ability to communicate the vision with skill to those under his command.

Regardless of the context, the bugle can teach us essential characteristics of leadership: to have a clear vision, to inspire others to follow it, to facilitate their talents and gifts in building effective systems around the vision, and to constantly model the vision with skill and grace. In other words, to know how to blow.

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