Storytelling for Business

by Nick Owen

What sort of leader uses stories?

Anyone can tell stories in business environments, but some people have reservations. Context and culture are important considerations. The main thing is that you feel comfortable about telling stories. If you follow the ideas and practices set out in this topic, the chances are that you will feel perfectly capable of using business narratives in any context to achieve powerful and sustainable results.

There are, of course, macho cultures in which stories are considered to be a management tool for wusses. But such organisations are a minority, and probably an endangered minority at that.

If the culture in which you operate considers such leaders and communicators as John Harvey Jones, Peter Senge, Jack Welch, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Buddha and Jesus Christ as fluffy and lightweight, then you are probably working in a macho culture. Just remind them that the All Blacks rugby union team actually dances their story before they destroy their opposition.

The power of story, parable, analogy and metaphor through the ages has been seized on by the very best leaders and communicators as a tool with which to pass on their messages with elegance and integrity, with humour and utmost seriousness.

Great leaders and communicators all recognise the simple fact that power and strength are actually enhanced through connection to one’s own humanity and vulnerability. A story demonstrates something of who you are as a person, and is an invitation to your listeners to join with you in a relationship.

Communicators who do not heed this message appear more as technicians pursuing tasks than as leaders creating vision and wealth.