The Power of Storytelling in Leadership
Great stories capture the imagination. The power of storytelling in leadership has no boundaries. It unlocks emotions and changes what our audience believe.
An example of the power of a great story
As the tale goes, Jack Dorsey challenged his team of engineers at Square to create an application that will allow Starbucks to receive and process mobile payments. When one of the engineers presented an innovative solution to solve the problem, Dorsey was so overwhelmed that he immediately rewarded the engineer with a high-end bottle of scotch.
At that moment, the engineer could resell the bottle of alcohol for about $2000. Today, the price of that bottle keeps increasing every time Dorsey retells the story. This story may seem simple, but it is an excellent example of how it can excel value. It makes the power of storytelling in leadership real. It creates value.
The rules of the power of storytelling in leadership
The main reason why leaders tell stories; they want others to see what they see. To achieve this, they need to entertain, educate, influence, motivate, inspire and ultimately change their audience. Daily, leaders create and deliver reports, explanations and pitches to capture attention.
In his book, Show and Tell, Dan Roam explains three rules for storytelling in leadership:
- Lead with the truth and the heart will follow.
- Lead with a story and understanding will follow.
- Lead with the eye and the mind will follow.
There’s an old saying that facts should not get in the way of a good story. The truth is, a great story is always right. Maybe not factual, but consistent and authentic. Audiences are experts in sniffing out cheats.
Compelling stories have limited detail. If the audience gets the storyline, you don’t need to fill in all aspects. Sometimes the listeners also need to draw their conclusions.
Well crafted stories appeal to our senses. It activates the brain and banishes monotony. In this case, picture help, real or imaginary.
The benefits of storytelling for leaders and entrepreneurs
The intention of most presentations during sales, in a boardroom, at a client or investor is to make the listener take some affirmative action.
Bill Gurley provides an excellent synopsis of the benefits of the power of storytelling in leadership:
Every business leader has a story to tell. The narrative transforms the company into a brand. The brand builds memories. Eventually, the memories unlock emotions, and sometimes it brings nostalgia. Consumers love how a brand makes them feel. Like Don Draper did in Mad Men:
With a superb narrative, you can change a story from sharing data to empowering with knowledge and ultimately change what the listener believe. This is the power of storytelling in leadership.
The power of storytelling is leadership
Leadership is storytelling and storytelling is leadership. These are the words of Andy Raskin when asked what his #1 piece of advice is for integrating storytelling into one’s leadership style. He went on and said that building a compelling strategic narrative and aligning all the stakeholders takes a lot of energy. According to Raskin, you need to answer the following five questions when compiling a leadership story:
- Whose lives, primarily, are you out to change?
- What’s at stake (for them) if you succeed or fail?
- How does the Promised Land look?
- What are the obstacles to reaching the Promised Land, and how will you help overcome them?
- What evidence can you offer that you can make the story come true?
In a previous blog, I laid out a framework on how to convey a message and keep your audience’s attention.
Differentiate your business with the power of storytelling
If a good story can add so much value to a bottle of alcohol, imagine what it can do for your business and products. The next video shows how a simple story adds value to a product. David goes on and shares some critical neurological findings on storytelling. David Phillips calls it an emotional investment. You will also learn more in this video about the techniques used by Don Draper.
According to David, the beautiful thing is that you can decide what kind of hormones you want to set free within your audience. A great example of the power of storytelling in leadership.
Bottom line: Extraordinary stories confirm the listeners’ belief. It makes them feel smart and secure. It sets hormones free in the body to create predictable emotions. They will retell the story as if it’s their own.
Bad stories create random noise.
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