Storytelling - an essential leadership skill

How the art of storytelling can be harnessed to effectively motivate and engage talent

Our life is full of stories: stories of what we have done or of what we are about to do. Our nations are built upon the stories that shaped them, the heroes and the villains, the leaders and the followers. Our newspapers, TV, theatre and movies are all vehicles for storytelling and the workplace is no different. Our organisations are a product of the stories that got us to where we are now and the promise of the stories of the future.

For leaders in organisations the power of storytelling is a key leadership skill, one that is too often either ignored or overlooked. It’s not a regular MBA ingredient but it is an invaluable, powerful communication tool that can unlock the potential of the talent in your organisation and engage and galvanise your people.

We all tell stories, we might not notice that we do but we spend countless hours recounting our adventures and experiences. The very culture of our organisations is a complex web of these anecdotes, unwittingly laying out what is and isn’t accepted in our workplace and what happens to those who contribute in ways that stand out for good and bad.

We can learn how to harness the power of storytelling - there are ways to make the use of storytelling a defining act of leadership. As managers and leaders we should take some time to think about how we use that power to effectively communicate and motivate.

Some key points to think about:

  • When would a story be the best way to communicate?
  • Who should we be telling it to?
  • What do you want to achieve as a result of it?
  • Where and how best to tell it?
  • How can you ensure it maximises its potential?

The most important aspect of storytelling as a leadership skill is the authenticity you bring with it and the clarity of intent you have behind it.

Storytelling as a leadership skill is available as a programme from Impact International and it will be showcased on 6 November at the CIPD exhibition.

There is also an accompanying book of the same name available through Impact on request: "Storytelling - an essential leadership skill" a pocket guide.