Authentic leaders are storytellers.
“Instead of telling our valuable stories, we seek safety in abstractions, speaking to each other about our opinions, ideas, and beliefs rather than about our lives” wrote Parker Palmer. He went on to say that, “academic culture blesses this practice by insisting that the more abstract our speech, the more likely we are to touch the universal truths that unite us. But what happens is exactly the reverse: as our discourse becomes more abstract, the less connected we feel. There is less sense of community among intellectuals than in the most ‘primitive’ society of storytellers.”
There are some important themes emerging in a converging world that smart leaders pay attention to and one of these themes, is the importance of story. There are two fundamental pillars underpinning why story is so essential in the theory and practice of leadership: Firstly, we see the world not as it is but as we are. In other words our lenses dictate how we see and interpret the world around us. This is why Goleman’s framework of emotional intelligence (EQ) is so important and relevant which leads to the second pillar, we lead out of who we are.
When we understand leadership as being about authentic connection, and as being about influence rather than a title or position, then story becomes a powerful tool to understand and to use. We connect through our stories and we live and are lived by our story. This is what makes storytelling so powerful and memorable and yet we make little or no time for it within our organizations.
We busy ourselves with data and concern ourselves with processes and efficiencies that we scrutinize, measure and constantly analyze. Again, there is a place and appropriateness for all this yet it comes at the neglect of what is really important – connection, both inside and outside of our business. We have shied away from the very thing that ought to be central to our leadership – our story. We have built our muscles but neglected our souls. We talk earnestly of meaning and purpose in our work and in our workplace yet we have forgotten the very building blocks that make this possible – our story.
When last did you share your story?
Extracts from an article by Keith Coates.