A few months ago, my manager and I began to read and study the book, “Leadership from the Inside Out” by Kevin Cashman. We read a chapter and discussed it in our weekly one on one, talking about key insights and epiphanies from the chapter. The most recent chapter we conversed had a beautiful tie to a concept we have been re-focusing on as an organization: Storytelling.
From the beginning of time, human beings have been mesmerized by stories. From passing down useful information and knowledge in oral history to writing, filming and recordings, we are naturally fascinated with epic tales such as the hero’s journey and the twists and turns of a great narrative.
Cashman draws on this basic human inclination and applies it to leadership in the chapter entitled Story Mastery, where he describes storytelling as one of the main differentiators between transactional managers and transformative leaders. In a world of spreadsheets and power points, leaders who are able to engage audiences in this way are able to turn information into inspiration.
Cashman mentions the key to story mastery is at the intersection of authenticity and relevance. Jack Stahl, former Chairman, and CEO of Revlon noted that “The best leaders today are both deeply authentic and highly relevant in all situations. As they maintain the depth of their authenticity, they also flex to serve the relevant needs of the situation and the people involved. They recognize when to engage at the strategies level and when to dive deep into the nitty-gritty.”
In a world of information overload, inspired leaders who can tell stories to connect the individuals of the organization to the larger vision of the entity tend to see a more fulfilled workforce. Additionally, Francesca Gino, a behavioral scientist, and professor at Harvard Business School found that teams who shared personal stories with one another are more effective. She found that individual team members who came together as people through “relational self-affirmation” had heightened contributions from each team member and increased team outcomes.
There are several stories that we tell again and again. These include personal narratives such as challenges we have faced that taught us invaluable lessons, how we got to our current organization and why we stay. On a larger scale, there are stories specifically related to the company like describing the inception, vision and continued purpose of the entity. While rehearsing stories may seem like the antithesis to authenticity in some form, a well articulated and thought out story allows for strong emphasis on just the right chords to strike inspiration.
Melissa Schonberger is a Leadership Search Director at Y Scouts. In her role, she truly loves being able to surround herself with clients, candidates, and colleagues who are dedicated to elevating humanity through business. She finds meaning in helping others ponder and find their purpose through her conversations. Outside of work, Melissa is passionate about boxing and being a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters.