Leaders Are Storytellers At Heart

Leader Storytelling

In 1961, when John F. Kennedy announced the moon mission, it did not require him to talk about the facts of physics. That was left to the folks at NASA. What he did as a leader was persuade people to believe that going to the moon was a project worth undertaking, and one that would be a leap for mankind.

Skim through the stories of businesses and there are companies that shine brighter than others. Shining brighter need not be in purely economic terms. Companies are culture-building hubs. Those that stand out are the ones that nurtured their people to learn, contribute, and grow. And all this with the objective of making a difference in people’s lives. 

A leader is who makes this possible.

Leaders in a business context play the role of the Chief Influencer, and they need to persuade people both within and outside their organisations to believe in those ambitious goals.

Why Business Leaders Need Storytelling

Business leaders hold the keys to culture building and employee performance. Remember Steve Jobs on stage at the annual Apple event holding the audience’s attention with stories of technological innovation? Or just watch Sudha Murthy (of Infosys Foundation) engage her audience and drive key life messages. Name any business leader who makes a mark and what makes them stand out is their ability to use storytelling in their everyday communication.

When leaders use storytelling, they are making a massive difference to the quality of their communication, and to the performance of their business. 

Here are 3 areas that leaders create impact by using storytelling.

Convey vision and provide clarity
Employees in organisations look up to leadership for direction. Leaders are communicating all the time – through their words and actions. With the use of storytelling techniques, they can convey vision, provide direction and build engagement with their people. Employees then have clarity about where they are headed as a business and how they can contribute to achieving goals.

Align their people and enable collaboration
It’s easy for competition between teams to turn into unhealthy behaviour, and turn the culture toxic. The use of storytelling enables leaders to communicate what values are encouraged within the organisation. If leaders state what values are important and why everyone needs to adopt that, it could end up being a boring sermon. Instead, storytelling will enable leaders to effectively convey the kind of operating climate that needs to be nurtured.   Successful leaders use storytelling to get their people together and continue to create the grounds for high performance.

Inspire mindset shift and action
Today, companies need to navigate through constant change and new challenges continue to keep everyone on their toes. People’s thinking makes a huge difference to business performance. In a VUCA world, organisations both large and small need to adapt to rapid changes.

Leaders have the onus of inspiring their people to embrace change and propel them to action. Leaders can achieve a collective mindset shift by using storytelling when steering change.

People’s actions, behaviour and performance within organisations are a direct reflection of the quality of leadership. Leaders who inspire their people do so by being great storytellers. 

Which leader has had an impact on your life? And what stories did they tell? Tell us.