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The Energizer Blog

  • Writer's pictureEileen McDargh

GREAT Leaders are GREAT Storytellers

Audience listening to a lecture

We follow leaders who capture us with stories that draw us in and give us purpose for being part of the company or movement. Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a dream”, was actually a compelling story that pulled many people into seeing possibilities. Don’t we all yearn for the person who could tell us a story about a world that works for everyone? We would have no close national elections if someone could articulate that story.

We buy products when we see or read of the human experience with that product (remember the Maytag Man). And we accept the call to action if we hear a compelling story about triumph over odds. Think about the solicitation letters you get from non-profits. They are often stories of individuals who suffered greatly until the non-profit’s “product” allowed them to regain a semblance of their life.

In short, crafting compelling, honest stories that resonant core values in action is a skill worth learning by any leader, manager, sales executive, or parent.

In his best-selling book Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, Robert McKee, the world’s best-known and most respected screenwriting lecturer, argues that stories “fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of living” not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.” Or as USC leadership guru Dr. Warren Bennis states: “Man cannot live without story any more than he can live without bread.” What’s the point you want to make at your next meeting? Is there a story that can be crafted to that point—not a sermon to be intoned?

Who has used your product and reported a wonderful story that came as a result of that product? Or did you even say to your client, “Tell me a story about a time when—”

What stories are told in the coffee room about what it is like to work where you are? What contribution could you make to this story that could improve the ending?

What future do you want? Create a story about it.

Remember, people are not inspired to act by reason alone. The heart holds hands with the head.

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