The Power Of Storytelling in Leadership
Our motto for all my classes is “We Are All Storytellers.” This piggybacks on the truth that everyone has a story. I’ve heard that Fred Rogers carried a quote in his wallet that stated, “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” The origin of the quote is attributed to Mary Lou Kownacki.
I teach storytelling via FILM and BROADCASTING. I know that the vast majority will not go into film/broadcasting careers but having storytelling skill will benefit them not matter what career choices they make.
Recently, I saw this article (The Power Of Storytelling in Leadership) on the BAND app. It’s definitely worth a read.
As a leader, storytelling is a skill you need. There are so many reasons why this skill is invaluable, but let’s begin with a story of my own to set the tone…
During the closing session of orientation for my first job years ago, one of the company’s senior staff approached the podium and before beginning his speech, looked into the eyes of everyone in the crowd, studying the silence that was only broken by the storm outside. His task was to tell us about the job we were getting into, the company’s philosophies, the challenges, and the rewards. However, while we waited for the screen behind him to light up with a PowerPoint presentation, he took a completely different approach. He told us a story… He told us of how his experiences early on really framed how he worked with the company’s values, the everyday challenges associated with his role, and his perseverance to never give up. His words were motivating, his aura captivating, and his message crystal clear. He was a great storyteller. And he created an atmosphere in that room that had everyone waiting for more. Motivated by his approach, I studied the ways I could emulate him and identified these simple tactics to better lead not by strict instruction, but through storytelling.
SIMPLIFY COMPLEX INFORMATION
Storytelling helps you break up technical (and sometimes boring) information into a more absorbable and executable format. Like in the story above, the company’s senior staff was able to explain their values, challenges, and rewards in a more relatable manner that kept the entire audience engaged. When he talked about his experiences, it was like we could feel it firsthand. That’s great storytelling.
Everybody likes to listen to a storyteller, and when your stories convey real value, you earn respect from your listeners. Relatability is huge in storytelling because it adds an authenticity that others can resonate with and respect. So don’t be afraid to sprinkle in some anecdotes from your past that you know would hit home for some of your audience. Your listeners will be more attentive because it feels like you’re speaking both directly and indirectly to them, and that holds weight.
Storytelling is a powerful tool for helping your team members stay motivated and disciplined. If you’re familiar with war movies, you’d have noticed how often protagonists use storytelling in their pre-battle speeches. Picture this: The troops are looking worn out and dejected, with the odds towering high against them. But just moments before the sound of clashing knives and flying arrows, the leader steps up and delivers sage words of inspiration and wisdom; just enough to set them on the path to glory. In the modern world of enterprise, the battlefield is in the workplace. We’re constantly faced with challenges and deadlines, and sometimes the atmosphere could really use some motivation. With storytelling, you can speak to the emotions of your teammates, effectively inspiring and motivating them to keep their creative juices running.
IDENTIFY TEACHABLE MOMENTS
Perhaps you and your team have just completed a project, or maybe you just recorded a failure. Regardless of the situation, one thing is certain: for every win or loss, there is always a lesson to draw. Leaders with good storytelling skills find it easy to communicate teachable moments to their teammates. That way, they learn from their mistakes and successes, remain motivated, and ultimately grow.
“Stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”
-Howard Gardner, Harvard University
Contributed by Michael Chimaobi
Michael is an e-commerce business owner, copywriter, mentor, and tech enthusiast who believes in the power of positivity.