In the era of rampant social media and ‘fake news’ we are more suspicious than ever about the stories we are told, particularly those told by leaders. Yet to get anything done at all leaders must communicate their plans and ideas and hope their followers will be inspired to effective action. Good storytelling is a powerful way for leaders to communicate their messages effectively.
A prerequisite for any leader hoping to inspire others is to be authentic and to engender trust. Then, to have real impact, they need to become compelling storytellers. Unfortunately, there are very few Pericles amongst us and many otherwise very able executives struggle to communicate their stories convincingly.
Help is at hand though – because storytelling is a skill that can be learnt. RSM Executive Education offers a one-day The Power of Storytelling program which is about how to learn to attract followers and create enthusiasts and devotees among customers, colleagues and business partners by finding, creating and sharing powerful stories.
Good stories can increase legitimacy and persuade customers, investors and employees to commit to your organization. For example, for change initiatives to succeed leaders need to communicate a clear and detailed vision of a future with the change in place; telling a story about the change — starting with the ideal future then imagining the story of how that change can be achieved. Done well, with authenticity, such a story will inspire and guide the change process, and encourage creative engagement from all stakeholders.
Arguably storytelling was less important in the past when leadership by ‘command and control’ still worked. But today’s employees, who are unimpressed by status and hierarchies, will not respond to instruction by rote but are excited by ideas and a culture that is democratized and enables their creative involvement. Effective storytelling is a key skill that can help leaders develop such an environment.
Furthermore, today we live in an age of constant communication and information overload, so to deliver messages that cut through and ‘stick’ we need to tell stories that simplify the complex and are structured and delivered in an accessible and persuasive way. From Pericles to Barack Obama (though maybe not Donald Trump) leaders have understood how powerful stories should be told and there is a lot that can be learnt from the history of storytelling.
The Power of Storytelling program which is led by expert practitioner Terence Brady, is taught in English, and equips executives with practical tools to enhance their personal impact as leaders. It considers the history and theory of storytelling, its relationship to leadership, and looks at the latest research. On the practical side the program explores the best structure for your story, storytelling techniques, and the characteristics and use of different types of stories. And because the program is highly practical, participants are able to put their learning into action immediately.
By acquiring the skill of good storytelling leaders are able to:
- Effectively engage audiences and build trust-based relationships
- Inspire and influence stakeholders – investors, customers and colleagues
- Convey messages subtly in a way that makes them sticks
- Simplify complex ideas and put them in a familiar context
To succeed as a leader, it is important to be confident in delivering information in a way that inspires employees, reassures investors, engages customers and promotes the brand. It is important to be a powerful storyteller.
RSM Executive Education’s The Power of Storytelling program is run in September and December 2017