Characteristic #19: Storytelling Leadership

By | October 9, 2013

[October 9, 2013]  Understanding the psychology of human beings; what motivates us and focuses our employee talent is something every senior executive leader wants.

From the beginning of the human race in the most primitive settings to our modern world, a good story is something we all can relate to and remember.  Thus, the use of storytelling1 in leadership can help us accomplish more and is an asset to improve organizational success if used correctly.

Storytelling is a powerful tool when used to communicate.  It functions to educate, infuse moral values, entertain, motivate, and transmit culture.  In any good story, there is a message.

“If the story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.  And here I make a rule – a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last.”

– John Steinbeck in East of Eden

The most effective senior leaders will be masters of storytelling.  It is well known2 that President Abraham Lincoln used storytelling as his primary form of persuasion and the most important and effective aspect of his leadership style.

Successful storytelling can be used to motivate organizations, help manage conflict, communicate vision, teach important lessons, recruit talented people, improve morale, improve employee creativity, define organizational culture and values, and explain why the organization is doing something.

Good storytelling can also be used in complex, difficult, and delicate situations like when leading organizational change or managing diversity and inclusion.

Therefore, mastering authentic storytelling is a crucial characteristic of a senior executive leader.

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[1] Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation or embellishment.  Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters, and narrative point of view.

[2] Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times.  Donald T. Phillips, 1992.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.