The Leadership Art of Storytelling
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” ~ J.K. Rowling
In this latest episode of the “Aim Higher” podcast, I got the chance to sit down with my friend Paul Smith. Paul gets to do something as a job that a lot of us tend to think of as a bit of a lark. He’s a storytelling expert. That word, “storyteller,” for a lot of people, conjures up an image of sharing a good anecdote or maybe even a joke.
Something fun or interesting happened during your day so when you get home, you tell your family a story. You hear a funny story when you’re out with your friends and then pass it on to a colleague. Maybe you hear an interesting or informative story about a new technology or a company doing some great work. It all sounds a bit casual and fun and the idea of doing it for living?
“Inside each of us is a natural-born storyteller, waiting to be released.” ~ Robin Moore
We know, of course, that there are great and influential storytellers. Novelists and movie directors who craft stories that appeal to audiences of millions. That’s different, isn’t it? And leaders of great movements: politicians or preachers, peacemakers or researchers who can capture a crowd with a story and convince us to change our minds, make a commitment, come along with the crowd. But that’s not us. We tell stories around the dinner table or on a bus or at a business conference. We’re just talking about our jobs, our projects, our work. We’re not trying to change the world.
Or are we? If you’re a leader, I’d suggest you are trying to change the world. For your staff, for your investors, for your customers. You want them, in some cases, to make a change. You want them to believe in the vision you have for your organization. Or you want them to understand a change that you see for the future that they haven’t yet. That’s what we do as leaders, right? We see further ahead.
But if you can’t tell that story well? If you can’t convince others to go forward with you?
Well, that’s where Paul comes in. He believes that storytelling is like any other skill. You can learn it from someone, like him, who has experience doing it and teaching it. And his latest book, The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell is a great place to start.
”If you are going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts in business storytelling. He’s a storytelling coach. I hope you’ll listen in on our conversation. Paul takes us, at a high level, through three of the ten stories in our chat. It’s a nice introduction to the topic, and he is an engaging guest.
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“A sales pitch is not a story. A list of reasons is not a story.” -Paul Smith
“The worst way to start a story? Say, ‘Let me tell you a story.’” -Paul Smith