The Myths about the Leader’s Story

In my experience the following propositions do not seem particularly controversial to most people:

  • Storytelling is an ancient art that hasn changed much in several thousand years.
  • The effective use of storytelling in organizations involves creafting and performing a well made story with a hero or heroine, a plot, a turning point and a resolution.
  • A storyteller catches and holds the attention of an audience by evokking the sights and sounds and smells of the context in which the story took place.
  • A compellingly told well-made story is effective regardless of the purpose for which the story is being told.
  • Storytelling is a rare skill in which relatively few human beings exce.

Whes propositions are widely regarded as noncontroversial they are all wrong.  They constitute some of the popular myths about storytelling. One of the purposes of this seminar is to explode these myths and expose what is really involved in using story for leadership in organizations.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)“There is nothing more powerful, than an idea whose time has come” – Victor Hugo

For one thing it turns out that different narrative patterns are useful for the different purposes of leadership. Knowing wich pattern is suitable for which task is a key in the effective use of storytelling.

It also transpires that some of the most valuable stories in organizations don’t fit the pattern of a wll-made story. For instance, a springboard story that communicates a complex idea and sparks action generally lacks a plot and a turning point. A story that shares knowledge for a innovation quest has more than one hero or heroine, it needs different personalities.

The idea that storytelling is a ind of rare skill, possessed by relatively few human beings is utter nonsense. Human beings master the basics of storytelling as young children and retain this capability throughout their lives. One has only to watch what goes in an informal social setting – a restaurant, a coffee break, a party  – to see that all human beings know how to tell stories. Storytelling is an activity that is practiced incessantly by everyone. It is so pervasive that it has almost become invisible. We are all storytellers.  Learning to tell stories is not so much a task of learning something as it is reminding ourselves of something we already know how to do.

That is what this seminar is about – providing leaders at whatever level in the organization with usable tools for communication – narratives that help tackle the most difficult challenges of leadership.  The seminar has a strong focus on what works. But it also conveys enough theoretical background to give you an understanding of why some stories work for some purposes but not for others.