The Leader As Storyteller

The Leader As Storyteller

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 …

Business Stories – Can You Really Learn Anything from Business From Success?

Business Stories - Can You Really Learn Anything from Business From Success?

Follow at Your Own Risk

Many struggling and fledgling entrepreneurs look to the stories of those that have succeeded as their holy grail and the only word on learning how to succeed. There is a long list of entrepreneurial giants and titans of industry who have amazing stories of success and accomplishment. We feel that there is so much to be learned by looking at and studying these remarkable individuals and there triumphs. And why shouldn’t we? They have succeeded and overcame many obstacles and challenges with sheer grit and determination. There is a lot there to be admired and respected. But does that really help us learn how to “make it” and not fall flat on our faces? The fact of the matter is probably not. Whatever it is you are doing or attempting to do is probably very different from any success story you have heard or read about. Even if it’s in the same industry, the same product or service, it’s nowhere near the same. The stories of successes are great for inspiration and motivation and that’s it, that’s where it ends. They are far from a blue print for the wannabe entrepreneur to follow. It’s not like following someone’s foot steps in the snow, which isn’t even that easy, you still seem to make your own tracks no matter how hard you try. As an entrepreneur you just can’t say I’m going to do exactly what he or she did step by step. Your success is about you and your vision. If we could just follow the exact steps one by one of those legends we admire so much it would all be so easy. But it’s not that easy at all. Entrepreneurship is a journey and very different for each of us.

The Recipe Lies

Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: Take a Big Drink From This Classic Networking Book

Harvey Mackay started by doing, not by writing. By the time he wrote, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty; The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need,” he had spent nearly 40 years at the helm of Mackay Envelop Company. The company was failing when he bought it. Mr. Mackay didn’t have a lot of resources to build the company except for his own belief in the power of relationships.

His first few books reflected the tough environment of the business world with titles referring to getting eaten by sharks and insincere offers from naked men. But “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty” takes a more optimistic and proactive approach. Written in 1997, it doesn’t make any mention of the internet or social networking, but focuses purely on the person to person, face to face aspects of networking.

At over 300 pages and not the largest type font size in the industry, it seems like a daunting project to start. But here’s the best part about this book and why it’s still worth picking up today. It is full of networking stories. Not stories about made up people or someone you’ve never heard of, but stories about how celebrities, athletes, and even presidents have built and used their networks. There are names you’ve heard of only because you’ve shopped at their stores, like Stanley Marcus of Nieman Marcus and Len Riggio, founder and Chairman of Barnes & Noble. There are sports figures like Pat O’Brien and Muhammed Ali. Politicians from both parties including Bill Clinton and George Bush. The stories include other authors such as Stephen King, Erma Bombeck and movie stars such as Paul Newman.

Just reading the index is like a who’s who of politics, business and sports. You can’t help but be inspired by the list of successful …