How to Develop the Skills For A Good Leadership Story

04.22.13 MondayThe most effective way to influence people is by telling good stories that create interest. Even though most executives and managers realize this, only a few find it easy to create a story that works.

Daphne A. Jameson, a professor of management communication at Cornell University, researched business meetings and how language was used in. She found that storytelling is an important way to resolve conflicts. Managers can effectively use narratives in difficult or impossible situations to stimulate people to solve problems among themselves.

Dr. Pamela Rutledge who is the Director at the Media Psychology Research Center at Fielding Graduate University said that “Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life. Call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors or narratives. Stories are how we explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we justify our decisions, how we persuade others, how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values.”

TV writer/producer Richard Maxwell and executive coach Robert Dickman in The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster & Win More Business said, a story is “a fact, wrapped in an emotion that compels us to take an action that transforms our world.”  

According to Jerome Bruner, a research professor of psychology at New York University, even before  acquiring  language infants organize their world in stories. Stories not only entail the content of our thoughts, they also signify how we think.

Bruner estimates that adults are 20 times more likely to remember something when it’s part of a story.

According to research about stories:

1.    They don’t have to be long.

2.   They don’t necessarily have to be verbal (think of brand logos).

3.   Telling the right story, at the right time, helps us shape and regulate our world.

A Leadership Stories 5 Elements

Maxwell and Dickman believed that in order to creating a unforgettable, inspiring and transformational story arises from a good outline, and must have five basic elements:

   Desire (the interest and energy with which you tell the story).

   A significant hero who gives your story a point of view and lets your audience enter into the story in their own minds.

   An hindrance or an adversary who presents problems that must be faced. This struggle involves strong emotions that engage the audience.

   A second of consciousness when everything changes for the hero (the problem is solved, and there is an emotional release). The audience learns from the story as it plays out in their minds.

   A change that occurs within the hero, which improves his situation or allows him to make new discoveries.

Taking a story apart in this manner, may make it appear more complex than it is. A good way to develop your storytelling is to take a look at a story you’ve used in the past.  Find these five elements, then take each one and work on making it better.

For example, how can you make the hero of the story more human to your listeners? Is there a similarity between he heroes obstacles and those you are trying to influence? Consider how  you can add realism and authenticity, stories with real people are never black and white.

Have your experiences with telling a good leadership story been good or bad? Have any backfired on  you?


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