The Power of Storytelling in Times of Change
Martin Luther King understood the power of storytelling when he started his famous speech with the memorable words “I have a dream.” He didn’t call for change by giving us the facts. He started by painting a big, beautiful, audacious dream – not only for himself, but for an entire nation. We wonder if Harvard University professor Dr Howard Gardner had this in mind when he said: “stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal”1?
Many organisations are dealing with transformations that are bigger than ever before. These times require bold, visionary leadership without the command-and-control style of what may have worked well over the past decades. Teams are looking for leaders they can trust. Leaders that guide and inspire, that provide clarity and structure, but don’t control or diminish their enthusiasm, energy and drive. And we don’t just mean the CEO that needs to provide this vision. Leaders of today – on all levels – need to cascade this aspiration, break down what a new strategy means for their team, exemplify a new vision or take people on the journey of finding a company’s purpose. That needs more than facts – it needs a personalized interpretation of the transformation journey and what it means.
In the work we do at FTI Consulting’s People & Change practice, we have noticed that in many of the disruptive transformations happening in organizations today, leaders often still struggle to get their communications and interaction with employees right. They struggle to find their “authentic voice” – yet it is in this “authentic voice”2 that great storytelling is born.
1. Gardner, Howard, and Emma Laskin. Leading Minds: an Anatomy of Leadership. BasicBooks, 2011.
2. For more information on this topic we recommend the following two authors:
Brené Brown. Dare To Lead. Random House, 2018. Or watch Brené Brown ted talk about vulnerability.
Terry Pearce - Leading Out Loud: Inspiring Change Through Authentic Communications, New and Revised (17.03.2003). Or watch Terry Pearce’s video about Leading Out Loud.