Storytelling is rapidly becoming a popular and trendy tool for business leaders to build connections, impress stakeholders, and move their organizations forward.
- In a recent op-ed for Management Today, Special Group London CEO Jennifer Black discusses how and why storytelling has become a potent tool in the business leadership world.
- A 2018 study from the Journal of Leadership Education found that using storytelling can contribute to leadership effectiveness.
- The topic has gained more attention in leadership circles since the study, with the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Business and Cambridge University building courses and programs around storytelling in business.
Why It’s Important
In a world where people constantly have to pay attention to new stimuli and experiences, holding a client or customer’s eyes and attention long enough to make an impact makes the difference between success and failure. Black says that storytelling can be used to engage stakeholders, raise capital, share values, and build connections by telling good stories that engage viewers through empathy and authenticity.
Using storytelling as a tool does not come naturally to every business leader. As she notes, many managers struggle with vulnerability and being able to express their stories authentically. Learning to do so can make a significant difference, building trust, understanding, and change with new people.
Black says the key is to frame the audience as the hero of a classical story. The storyteller focuses on the customer’s needs and desires, allowing them to communicate ideas more emotionally and with more empathy than they otherwise would with graphs and statistics.
“Accomplished leaders use storytelling to improve interpersonal relationships, communicate strategy and build culture. It can create common ground among teams and unleash the drive toward creating a shared vision of the future. Storytelling gives a sense of shared learning and should lead to the development of mutual understanding. It can be used to model excellence, develop organizational culture, support strategic management, and strengthen employee loyalty,” says Black.
“At their core, stories are typically about overcoming adversity, and conflict keeps things interesting. As a simple example, take the story of Little Red Riding Hood. It contains a status quo (‘the way things are’)—our protagonist travels through the forest with a package for grandma; a conflict, or adversity—in the shape of the Big Bad Wolf; and a resolution—the woodsman comes to the rescue. Story structures should follow this template while providing an inspirational or affecting payoff.”