Hello SOTGC community,
Once upon a time there were two leaders. Each was asked to present their strategic plan at the village meeting. One leader shared metrics, performance targets, and sales projections through wordy slides, pie charts, and graphs too small to read. He showed how each of his goals directly aligned with a higher royal initiatives. He stressed how important each person’s contributions were vital to achieving success and wrapped up by asking, “Are there any questions?” There was silence across the land.
The other leader took a different approach. She started with a personal story about a time, early in her career, when she made a big mistake on a project she was leading. Luckily, she told them, she had a leader back then who encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone, take calculated risks, and learn from failure. She used descriptive language, humor, and metaphors to create a mental image of what the organization would look like, and how customers would benefit, in a culture of increased innovation and collaboration. Her presentation slides had no words, only powerful images to support her message. The people were excited to work towards making that future vision a reality.
Storytelling as a Leadership Competency
In my last post, I wrote about three key competencies lacking in the next generation of leaders. Number one on the list was the ability to create and articulate a compelling vision that engages others to work towards achieving it.
Think about some of the most inspirational business leaders of today like Richard Branson, Sheryl Sandberg, Tony Hsieh, and, my personal favorite, Blake Mycoskie. They don’t use dry facts and data to create excitement around their vision. They use stories to connect with and inspire their audience.
“Logic makes people think, but it is emotion that makes people act.” – Zig Ziglar
Tell Me a (Powerful) Story
In their book, Hooked: How Leaders Connect, Engage and Inspire with Storytelling, communication experts Gabrielle Dolan and Yamini Naidu share the principles of crafting a motivating story “that will help you connect with your audience and inspire action.”
- Know your purpose: Ultimately, what do you want the listeners to do? What is the one takeaway? Dolan and Naidu recommend converting your answer to a bumper sticker in order to sum up your fundamental message.
- Know your audience: Do your research. Who are you talking to? What motivates them? What are their concerns?
- Know where to find stories: Look back on your work and personal experiences and you will realize just how many interesting and relevant stories you really have.
- Know the formula: All great stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Create a structure that will grab attention, pull the audience into the character’s situation, and connect with the overall business message.
SOTGC was created to be an open forum for discussion. Please share your thoughts on inspirational leadership through storytelling in the comment section below.