The Michelangelo Metaphor

Leadership as Service    

I saw the angel in the marble
and carved until I set him free.


~ Michelangelo ~


While I was writing Born to Serve: The Evolution of the Soul Through Service, Michelangelo appeared in my dreams informing me of the nature of his relationship with the marble he was sculpting. He was clearly teaching me the meaning of True Service by providing an energetic experience of his partnership with the marble and the marble’s partnership with him. 

Because leadership is a form of service, the Michelangelo metaphor can be adapted to explain the nature of the leader-group partnership.  Just as Michelangelo and the marble spoke and cooperated with one another, leaders and groups speak and cooperate with one another until together they reveal both the sculptor (the leader) and the marble’s (the group’s) perfected potential.  Michelangelo (the leader) and the marble (the group) are one. The sculpture (the group) wants to realize its potential as does Michelangelo (the leader).  Michelangelo (the leader) joins in purpose with the marble (the group) by chiseling, burnishing, and polishing the marble (akin to both the leader and the group working with their shadow) until that purpose is fulfilled.  Michelangelo’s perfected potential as a sculptor (a leader) enables him to serve the marble (the group) by removing what is unnecessary for the statue (the group) to emerge in its perfection (by working with their shadow).

unfinishedslave12 252x300Metaphors reveal something essential to be understood in emphasizing a possible relationship between seemingly diverse forms.  In this case, Michelangelo’s sculpting of marble is analogous to the leader-group partnership.   Sometimes, in service, we play the role of the sculptor – the teacher, the leader – and sometimes we play the role of the marble – the student, the group member.  Sometimes we are helping another remove obstacles to his or her soul knowledge and sometimes the other is helping to remove these obstacles from us.  Regardless of our role, we serve one another.  Our partnership with one another creates a masterpiece of awakening soul knowledge.


Step One:

The following adapts the Michelangelo/sculpture metaphor to the leader/group member partnership.  The sculptor – the “I” – in the following refers to you in the role of leader.  The word “group” has replaced the word “marble.”

Read the following aloud: 

As certainly as I, as leader, help to reveal the soul of the group, my soul is revealed through my partnership with the group; this is how I serve humanity.  I reveal my soul through my leadership as service.  I am always in partnership with the group I serve and am served by.  Serving with the intention of being both the leader and the masterpiece of my own life opens the door for the Absolute to create the highest good in any given set of group circumstances.

I, as leader, see in my mind’s eye the potential within each group member.  My heart resonates with the potential that lives within the group.  The reciprocity between me and the group is pure, vibrant, and certain.  I cannot force a design on a group that does not agree with its vision.  The group and I speak and cooperate with one another until together we release the form that reveals both my and the group’s perfected potential, its purpose, vision, and mission.  The group and I are one.

I do my part as I pound and chisel with concentration and purposefulness until the shared vision, the “soul” of the group, emerges from within the group.  The group and I deliberate and cooperate, not out of sacrifice, but out of desire to reveal our destiny.  Through this mutual give and take, we remove all obstacles to the complete expression of our potential, becoming the complete expression of ourselves in any given moment.

I am the leader of my life and can use each leadership and group experience to remove the superfluous in my inner and outer life and thereby free my soul’s knowledge, its already perfected potential.  The emergence of spiritual knowledge is the destiny of my soul.

Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.
~ Michelangelo

The outside forces of painful experiences serve as catalysts for my inner change and transformation.  As my personality tendencies and limited perceptions of life experiences fall away, my soul powers are called forth into full expression on the physical plane.  In this process, I discover both my human psychology and my divine spirituality.  The once hidden qualities and features of my soul emerge, and with increasing consciousness I manifest them in the world through leadership as service.

To recognize and relate to a group’s fullest potential is to honor each member’s soul.  Through service, the group and I become equal partners joined in a common purpose rather than being separated individuals doing something to one another.  Sometimes I am the group member, sometimes the group leader.  Joined in this way, we – leader and group – release something far greater than is otherwise possible: a holy relationship in which we support the emergence of each other’s highest potential into a joint masterpiece.

To release the soul of the group to its full expression requires skills for leadership and group life and skills for working with our physical, psychological, and spiritual natures.  This is a lifelong process; this is the reason we are here.  When our “striving with every nerve” joins with divine grace, the extraordinary happens.  My will as leader and the will of the group becomes one with Divine Will.  We know what to say or do to help sculpt our unique masterpiece of service.  Only by accepting the rigorous discipline of this partnership can the knowledge of our group emerge and our fullest potential be attained.  The goal of all work, of all service, of all leader-group partnerships, is simply to bring out what is already there, to unveil our souls.

Step Two:

Answer the following inquiry questions.

  1. What did I learn about myself as a leader when I read the above adaptation of the Michelangelo metaphor?
  2. What did I learn about myself as a group member when I read the above adaptation of the Michelangelo metaphor?


The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.

~ Michelangelo ~


Reference: © Susan S. Trout. Born to Serve: The Evolution of the Soul Through Service. Alexandria, VA: Three Roses Press, 1997.  

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