CEO Coaching: Metaphors, Analogies, and Proverbs

One of the most prevalent traits that I have observed in successful leaders is their ability to communicate. Specifically, their ability to tell stories and to simplify complex messages. It’s a skill work developing! 

Metaphors, analogies, and proverbs are useful communication tools as they are often a good short-cut to understanding. I’ve used many of them over the years that I’ve been writing about leadership and business to simplify nebulous concepts, or at least try! 

While caution is in order as some things just take a good deal of effort to learn, I find that metaphors, analogies and proverbs can give us some quick insights. (Perhaps it’s just limited attention span or intelligence on my part!)

Here are 10 that I find insightful or entertaining. Perhaps one will make you think differently today. 

“You have been told that real life is not like college, and you have been correctly informed. Real life is more like high school.”

—Meryl Streep, commencement address

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”

— Publilius Syrus

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” 

—General Dwight Eisenhower

“I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t.”

 —Dee Dee Myers

“Leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it.”

—Henry Mintzberg

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

—Sun Tzu

“Judge the mind of a man by his questions rather than his answers.”


“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

—Winston Churchill

“Profit is not the purpose of a business, but rather the test of its validity.” 

― Peter F. Drucker

“Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.”

—Homer Simpson

*Note from Todd: I like sarcasm as well!

Do you have a favorite? Let me know what it is!

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