Forbes: To Lead, Tell a Story

To Lead, Tell A Story
By Christian D'Andrea and Adam Nemett

Storytelling has always helped people deal with change. As civilizations ebb and flow, stories are the essential tools that help us calibrate our humanity, rally our spirit and thrive in crisis. They help us remember who we are and imagine what we can be.

Lucius Cincinnatus was a Roman leader who came to his nation's defense and then spurned a dictatorship and returned to his farm as soon as he had saved Rome. George Washington knew and loved Cincinnatus' story, and so did many of his countrymen. Having led the fledgling U.S. through storms that nearly tore the country apart, Washington returned to his own farm, possibly his greatest act of leadership. In so doing, he struck a profound blow for the republic, sending a clear message that the leaders of the new country could not be kings.

Washington was widely compared to Cincinnatus. He became the first president of the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of Revolutionary War veterans who honored the comparison with Cincinnatus. America drew on the story of the Roman general as we draw on the story of George Washington. Stories are the fuel cells that store our shared resilience and ideals. We draw on those fuel cells in times of crisis.

Corporations need culture-shaping stories just as nations do, because stories can be much more than entertaining yarns. They can be engines driving real change at the highest organizational levels.

A recent Gallup Management Journal article, "Four Disciplines of Sustainable Growth," suggests that identifying and highlighting key moments in corporate history "creates the right heroes in your organization. If you want to understand the culture of Great Britain, look to its heroes, myths and legends. Each of these war stories, retold in countless history books and classrooms, captures the spirit of 'determination in adversity' that the British so prize in themselves. By studying your best performers, you will gather the raw material you need to tell the right stories and create the right heroes."

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A few good examples of using stories. My experience shows that the best speakers are good story tellers.

If you want to dramatically improve your presentations - start telling more dramatic stories.

Everyone loves a good story. No one wants another lecture - just ask your kids.

George Torok
Executive Speech Coach
Presentation Skills Training

Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives.



Anonymous said...

I have been teaching at IESE Business School for the last 5 years on how to give a great speech. I have a list of 12 tips to give great speeches on my blog The Rhetorical Journey.

Number 2 is start with a personal story. I think I need to update the list and refocus on the importance of telling stories that the audience can engage with - and then tell and retell to their friends.

Thanks for the post. Conor

George Torok said...

Hi Conor,

I believe that telling a good story is the best way to deliver a message.