The Art of Storytelling for Leaders

One senior leader that I work with is a master story teller. This leader has worked out that story telling is the best way to make a point, the best way to connect with the team at a deeper level, and the best way to build rapport with people who can empathise with the story and the emotions behind it! 

I was at one of their leadership meetings recently, and I counted three stories within the 45-minute meeting. Only short stories, but all with a distinct relevance, and a distinct message. And, of course, they were useful in communicating the points that the leader was trying to make. They are useful in decision making, or just gaining commitment to a process or a system. 

So, why are stories so powerful in leadership, and why should every leader work on their story telling: 

1. Stories make it real 

Stories take an idea or an opinion (or even a possible outcome) from being very conceptual, to being very real. It takes the idea and puts evidence behind it, with supporting emotions and experience. The story brings the idea to life and can help to make it more feasible and plausible to those engaged in the process of reviewing the idea or decision. 

One of this leader’s stories related to culture change, and how that occurred in an organisation that the leader has been employed by. The reason for the culture change was important, but the outcome of the process was more important. And, it was a real example. 

2. Stories make it emotional 

A good story teller understands that the value of the story is in both the delivery, and in the emotional journey that they take the listener on. A great story will change the emotional state of the listener, to ensure that they have an experience of what the story is about. 

For the leader, the story must spark something in the listener, in a way that brings feeling and meaning to the message. Think emotions of happiness, sadness, loss or even excitement. 

Another story was about workplace health and safety, and the impacts of why the business should be safety focused. The leader explained what it was like going to a hospital to talk through family members of a person who had been badly injured at work. That hit people in the heart. 

3. Stories make it entertaining 

So, if you can convey a message, and put some emotion behind it, you might even be able to make it entertaining. People that are entertained are generally very engaged, and they are open to learning, listening and laughing! Don’t use humour if that is not your thing, though if it is, be as funny as you can, within the context of the story, and the confines of the political correctness of the workplace. 

My favourite story to tell involves not being able to wipe my own backside, when I had both of my hands burnt – generally gets a laugh, though is part of a bigger picture message, and a bigger story. 

So, there you have it – leaders tell stories! And, yes, it is important that they do!  

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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