In his landmark study of leadership, Harvard Professor Howard Gardner found that “the key to leadership… is effective communication of a story.”
Stories are an excellent way to connect with people, to make complex ideas easier to understand, and to make your message memorable. But telling stories is more than just a folksy way to relate to others. It is a powerful and persuasive vehicle that top leaders use to get their message across with maximum impact and minimum resistance. Today’s most effective leaders know how to use various story templates to communicate their vision, win buy-in for their ideas, transmit values, and inspire their people.
Many cultures have strong storytelling traditions. This is true regardless of their time in history or their place geographically. Yet few leaders of any stripe use stories in their work.
Generally speaking, leaders in business and government value facts, data, logic, and reason. Yet when presented with facts, people try to make sense of them through critical evaluations. They look for flaws in your argument. As a result, using only facts and logical arguments can put your audience in a confrontational state of mind.
Storytelling, on the other hand, combines facts plus emotions. When people become emotionally invested in a story, they aren’t looking for ways to shoot it down. By packaging your message into a story, you can introduce your message to your audience without hitting them over the head with it.
By harnessing the power of stories, leaders could be a lot more persuasive. So why don’t more leaders use stories? I can think of three main reasons.
1. Many leaders are not aware that stories can serve many purposes, such as: Introducing yourself. The right story can position you the way you wish to be perceived, rather than allowing others to …