Leadership Toolbox: Storytelling

By | January 10, 2019

[January 10, 2019]  Tell a story and people will listen; give them a bunch of facts, and they will run away.  The power of storytelling, especially for an experienced leader, is arguably one of the most effective means to communicate a message.

“Storytelling has a narcotic power.” – Robert Harris, a modern English novelist

The power of storytelling is in its infectiousness.  Good leaders understand the draw of a good story, its intoxicating effect, and the embedded insights.  Englishman Robert Harris, being a successful novelist, as expected understands this and thus his quote about the narcotic power of the story.  Storytelling’s muscle is why popular movies, the theater, and great books all tell a convincing narrative.

Those leaders who are willing to learn the trade (or skill in the toolbox) and skill sets to tell a convincing storyline, succeed more often.  Since the dawn of human thought, storytelling has been the most important method of transmitting meaning; sometimes the only method.  Some psychologists today sometimes propose that storytelling might even be in our molecular makeup.

Storytelling is powerful.  As humans, we know a lot of things intellectually, but we live on storytelling.  The best stories last generations.  The greatest stories last for thousands of years.  Peer into writings of ancient religions to get a grasp of how they articulate to us a moral sense, justice, human frailty, honor, suffering and pain, and enlightenment.

As individuals, we all use storytelling.  Maybe we are not aware of it or its power over others.  But those of us who have advanced in the hierarchy of humanness, know that it works and works well.  No other method has been invented to allow a sharing of experience and does so meaningfully and is unforgettable.

Storytelling is a tool that takes a prominent place in the leadership toolbox.  Storytelling is a means of persuasion and can be the most effective aspect of one’s leadership style; like for U.S. President Abraham Lincoln who used it well.

Mastering authentic storytelling is a necessary trait for all leaders.


[Note:]  I have a small mini-series on Leadership Toolboxes here at theLeaderMaker.com.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

33 thoughts on “Leadership Toolbox: Storytelling

  1. The Observer

    Came to this article from today’s reference in a comment, 8/1/2023
    Love Gen. Satterfield’s ability to tell a good story.

    1. Bryan Z. Lee

      Hi The Observer, same here. Great storytelling skills are a must for great leadership.

  2. Fred Weber

    I recommend you consider scenario planning. In other words, you predict what someone or something will do, build a model of it, and then strategize how you would accomplish it.

  3. Eva Easterbrook

    Today’s post with another tool for the leader is one of the best so far. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for a great series that is practical in every way.

  4. Bryan Lee

    I wish I’d had a mentor in the past who would have had this list to go over with me and to show me how to improve my ability to get the job done and take care of people at the same time.

  5. Andrew Dooley

    Lots of good comments today. That’s why I read them every day and then wonder if someone will make me laugh.

  6. Edward Kennedy III

    In the US Army from the old days (and yes, their methods worked), we had something called a “stand up meeting.” The idea was to get meetings over with really quick but to give the main points of what you need to tell everyone. The reason we stood up was that it wasn’t too comfortable and thus pushed ourselves not to sit around and pontificate on the irrelevant.

    1. Lynn Pitts

      I second the recommendation. I too learned about the stand-up meetings and how amazingly effective they can be with a little discipline.

    2. Tracey Brockman

      Mr. Kennedy, please write another article for Gen. Satterfield’s leadership blog. I’m a big fan.

  7. Eddie Ray Anderson,

    Note to all readers. Can anyone think of a suggestion for a future “tool” for Gen. Satterfield. I know he accepts recommendations? I can’t think of anything at this time. Len J. had a good one with ‘command presence’ but, like him, I don’t think that’s a tool.

  8. Scotty Bush

    “Storytelling is an art form that has been a most effective teaching tool for at least as long as history has been recorded.” — Jim Lord

  9. Len Jakosky

    I recommend that you use the tool of “command presence” as a tool. I’m not so sure it’s a tool, per se, but I think it would go well here. Appreciate you reading our comments, Gen. Satterfield.
    Oh, it’s almost TGIF.

  10. Lady Hawk

    Effective leaders tell stories that position them and their organizations as change agents instead of defenders of the status quo. People have been telling stories for millions of years so there is nothing new here.

    1. Billy Kenningston

      I agree. One reviewer of the book wrote, “As the title indicates, this is a book about the power of storytelling as an influencing tool. As Annette best tells it: “People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeball in information. They want faith…Faith needs a story to sustain it – a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas indeed offer what you promise…Story is your path to creating faith.”

  11. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Effective stories are
    Simple – listeners are not overwhelmed with detailed facts and information.
    Relevant – the purpose and theme of the story matters to those who hear it.
    Inclusive – everyone can see themselves in the story.
    Emotional – the story excites, delights, surprises, or otherwise moves the listener at an emotional level. It engages multiple senses.
    Friendly, not cynical – even sad stories should leave the listener feeling hope, understanding or satisfaction.
    Shared by many people – the story is interesting and important enough to be shared over and over again. The best stories gets more compelling when they are shared and refined as part of a dialogue before being passed on.

    1. José Luis Rodriguez

      This whole idea of storytelling and the list of tools that Gen Satterfield presents us is tremendously useful.

  12. Eric Coda

    It is especially useful for leaders, for example when leading people into the future, taking them through change, influencing, unifying people towards a common purpose, transmitting values, motivating and inspiring. Incorporating stories into your messages help to develop a shared sense of identity.

  13. Max Foster

    Storytelling has been around for thousands of years and we can probably all remember being captivated by stories in our childhood. Where the characters come to life and you ‘see’ the rich visual images that your imagination has fabricated. As we get immersed into a story, we begin to become a part of it, our hearts are touched and we can ‘feel’ what the characters are ‘feeling’.

    1. Georgie M.

      We are ALL captivated by a good story. A good story is one that makes us peek into the past and the future, entertains, and grabs our attention. Thank you Max for another great comment.


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