Leadership and Storytelling


The most memorable form of teaching — and leading — is through storytelling. Every major world religion has a text that includes stories, fables, or parables. Every follower of a great leader has a story they would love to share with you, about how that leader taught them something.

I was reminded of this truth recently when I got a newsletter from a friend of mine, the fabulous Shawna Schuh, a speaker of great reputation. Her newsletter made a great point about something she called Either-Or-Other, yet her article lacked something. I wrote her back:

I loved what you wrote here, and I felt you could have made it even stronger with some specific examples of Either-Or-Other experiences. One example would have been great, and one story would have been perfect. Without that specificity, I’m left with a series of concepts and generalizations. With a story, I have something deeply memorable that packs a punch. Just as your iconic Shoe works so brilliantly (I have yet to find the equivalent for myself, or at least the one that’s culturally acceptable), so to does story telling.

For example –

One day scientists finally created a computer that thinks like a person. As they test it, they ask it whether it thinks and has consciousness, and how can they — the scientists and the computer — work collaboratively to prove to skeptics that this computer really is thinking.

And the computer responds, “You know, that reminds me of a story…”

Shawna was very gracious and open to this feedback. I hope you are too. For further reading try Leadership Stories, the timeless Secret Language of Leadership, and Annette Simmons’ (PDF) “The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell“.

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