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Storytelling in Leadership

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Abstract

Leaders have to be effective communicators. They also must ensure their message is received as intended. This starts with getting attention. Stories, use of verbal visualizations and metaphors are one of the many ways to do that. Many people are interested in question why do we need fewer Powerpoints and Spreadsheets and more stories in leadership communication?

Keywords: leadership, storytelling, attention.

Storytelling in Leadership

It goes without saying that leaders have to be effective communicators. They also must ensure that their message is received as intended. This starts with at attempt to get attention. Stories, use of verbal visualizations and metaphors are one of the effective ways to do that. Still, there are many important questions to be addressed, like why do we need fewer Powerpoints and Spreadsheets and more stories in leadership communication and how important is the role of storytelling in leadership?

Storytelling is a unique way to present all types of information. It typically employs the following sequence: actual story telling by a person, its deeper understanding by an audience and the use of the story’s shared meaning by the audience. Stories are designed to create a valuable shared meaning. They play a very important role in  life of an organization (Kaye and Jacobson, 1999).

Storytelling helps to communicate the vision that the leader has. . It is also very helpful in building an organization’s culture and creating its identity. That, in turn, helps to unite employees around both the vision and the organization. Storytelling makes considerable contribution in a way that it  builds new leadership when veteran leaders share their experience through telling stories. Last but not least, it helps to inspire initiative to strive for a positive change.

There are usually three ingredients for storytelling: the storyteller, the topic and the audience. In some cases, when stories are not spontaneous, preparation is also a good for a successful storytelling. While there are born speakers, anyone can tell a good story with a bit of coaching which is very helpful in this respect. The knowledge of the audience is also extremely important since, in many ways, it will determine how successfully the story is received.

Leadership storytelling can have a positive effect on the organization which is going through some strategic changes. Both top managers and employees need to understand fully what the new strategic direction is. In such way, they will be more willing to accept the leadership decisions of the management and be inspired by them, which, in turn, will produce initiative and personal involvement. Storytelling may often replace or at least contribute to barrels full of money and countless hours spent on implementation of a new strategy. If executives want to make a significant improvement in their organization, they have to be ready to weave their new strategy message into a memorable and compelling story (Adamson, Pine, Van Steenhoven and Kroupa, 2006).

Leadership storytelling can be a very effective tool for making changes in organizations, sharing a vision, training new leadership techniques and creating organization’s culture. It motivates employees and makes them become participants of new undertakings.

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