The Story-telling Leader

The Story-telling Leader Qutoe Don't underestimate the power  of a story. Dr Bill Donahue

The Story-telling Leader – Transcribed

Hey I was driving in Dallas, Texas consulting with a team there and I was coming to an intersection and it was absolutely one hundred-percent obvious as I went into the intersection that I was going to have a collision, a t-bone kind of collision, and in order to prepare myself for the impact there were some psychological prep that took place but also just a sense of terror as this happened because the car the oncoming lane decided to make a left turn in front of me. So as it did it did it very slowly, that’s what surprised me it wasn’t trying to cut through quickly as I was coming through the intersection of just kind of crept slowly in their SUV through the intersection. It became obvious that I was going to hit them and the person in the car looking out the passenger window knew it was obvious as well, that they were going to be impacted. And then at the last moment something happened it counter intuitive thought that for a moment, and all this happens in a split second, for a moment I basically wanted to dismiss.

But I did pay attention to it and that counter-intuitive thought said, “Don’t break accelerate.” Uh… excuse me because this was probably thirty to forty feet from collision time, I’m doing about thirty or so miles an hour, they’ve just pulled slowly in front of me and frankly that the pavement’s wet from a light rain that had been falling. But that was what ultimately saved me because had hit the brakes I would have slid and had the collision, instead slightly acceleration in a quick turn allowed me to bypass the person and go around them. It was a terrifying moment, the last thing I wanted was an accident or to hurt anyone. But that counter-intuitive thought, that insight, that maybe god moment, whatever it was allow me to makes some change in that particular circumstance.


See I just told you a story it’s a very revealing and compelling story to me. But it’s a story I can use in a number of ways and leaders should use their stories and the stories of their organization to lead. So I’m going to give you 3 or 4 types real quickly of stories that are powerful.


Campfire stories, that’s when you look to the past, the people who’ve been around for awhile say here’s what it was like when I got here, here’s how the organization started, and do you remember when we put this team together two years ago? We were scared; we never thought we could pull this off. Campfire stories go back into the past and remind people of the journey and how you got where you are today.


A second kind of stories is what I call an iconic story. It captures what it is you’re trying to do as a group, a team or an organization. Remember when Mike came into the ER room? He was on the brink of death but because of Sandy doing her job with triage work and because we were able to bring the right technology into the room and because you Stevie anesthesiologist did your work, and Rebecca you brought your surgical experienced to this; you go around the room and you say look because of all that we did he’s alive today or this person’s alive today.


That allows you to see that this is what we exist for and you can take an iconic story in turn it into kind of a third kind of story which is a vision story, though often vision stories come from outside the organization. We tell the story from another group, another team, a book we’ve read, something that says do you see this happening we can be like that so if you see something in another group or organization that you can leverage to inspire your people that’s a vision story those are very powerful.


And the fourth kind is simply what I told earlier, which was a personal story. Personal stories help the leader connect emotionally with their team, can be used for teachable moments like I did in the sense of the encouraging you to pay attention to those counter-intuitive thoughts sometimes. And sometimes they can just simply be humorous, it could be a fun self-effacing story that says hey I’m just like you, I have the same problems and issues and life and you get the connect a little bit more with your people and you lighten the room up a little bit with a humorous story.


A Story-telling Leader can leverage the power of story for their leadership and for the benefit of their group or team organization. Don’t underestimate the power of a story.


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