Why leaders need to be good storytellers

November 23, 2022

Why leaders need to be good storytellers

“Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution–more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” — Lisa Cron

Humans connect through stories. It is the oldest form of education we have. Before we could write, we drew stories with pictures on cave walls and passed down narratives by mouth. When it comes to influencing others, nothing is as powerful a tool as storytelling. That’s why, as leaders, we must learn the art of great storytelling.

Numerous studies have shown that our brains are wired to remember stories that are well-told. Successful people and notable influencers are able to share meaningful stories that have an impact on us. The leaders that went down in history, the best salespeople, the teachers who had the most influence on us, and the most effective mentors are the greatest storytellers we probably knew.

In this digital age where information is at our fingertips, it is even more crucial to know how to tell great stories. It is how we connect with our audience and leave a deep and lasting impression. How we convey our narratives defines what the audience takes away from the stories we tell about ourselves, our companies, and our brands. It is how we can effectively share our ideas and move others to action.

The good news is that great storytelling is a learned skill. How can we become better storytellers?

Know your audience, know yourself

We all have our own stories to tell. The rich material of our lived experiences and the stories of the people we’ve met and interacted with can be the source. But you have to know who you are and what kind of message you want to impart to your audience.

You have to spend some time getting to know your listeners too. What frames of reference, shared experiences, interests, and values do they have? How can they relate to your frame of reference, lived experiences, interests, and values?

Knowing your audience shows that you are an empathetic speaker. And nothing catches people’s interest in you and what you have to say faster than letting them know that you are also curious to know about them.

Why are you telling this story?

Every narrative must have a clear purpose to be effective. It doesn’t matter how great your intonation is or how good your command of the language is—if you don’t have a clear purpose for your story, it will never land where it should.

What results are you looking for in telling your story? What emotions do you want your audience to feel? What action do you want them to take? What do you want them to think? What is the message you want to impart to your audience, and what kind of impact do you want it to have?

Make them care

Effective communication isn’t just about what you want to say; it’s also about how you say it. How do you make it as real and relatable to your audience as you can? Using dialogue, props, visual aids, and sound effects are some of the concrete ways you can make your story more colorful and alive.

Changing your intonation and volume also matters. Your body language, pauses, and facial expressions matter. The frames of reference and sequence matter.

There are many ways to share messages that have an impact and meaning for your audience. The most important thing about this is to be authentic. At the end of the day, stories are a tool to connect with people. You can’t connect to them in meaningful ways if you aren’t being “legit” with your message.

Storytelling is a powerful tool for us leaders—it helps us inspire, influence, and create bonds with others.

Thanks for reading A Brilliant Tribe.