The Best Leaders are the Best Storytellers

I am a sports fan.

My first love is Ohio State Football. After that, I like the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Cavs, & North Carolina Tar Heels (basketball). 

But overall I just like sports. I like the competition, keeping score, and watching amazing athletes do things I can only dream about. 

And I like the stories.

Last week, the sports world was abuzz with the women’s college basketball national championship outdrew the men’s in viewership for the first time. 

According to Nielsen, the matchup between Iowa and South Carolina drew more than 18.9 million viewers on average. Meanwhile, the men’s matchup between UConn and Purdue drew 14.8 million viewers—four million fewer than the women’s championship.

There are several reasons for this change in viewership, but the biggest is that the Iowa Hawkeyes and Caitlin Clark were the most compelling stories. Caitlin is the leading scorer in Division I basketball history–men’s or women’s. She plays for her home-state team, and the Hawkeyes played in the national championship game last year, so we got to know them.

Add in that they played the best program of all time (Uconn Huskies) in the Final Four and the best team (South Carolina) of the last two years in the finals, and you have some great stories. 

So, what does this have to do with leadership?

Everything.

Humans are story creatures.

We tell stories from toddler board books to the elderly’s eulogy.  

We tell stories about our past and our future.

We tell stories in movies, music, and mass.

We tell stories of adventure, boredom, and love.

We tell stories by day, by night, and by the campfire.

We tell stories to remember, reminisce, and re-frame.

We tell stories from the heart and from our history.

We tell stories with highs, lows, and in-betweens.

And you know this. 

Nobody puts kids to bed with goodnight graphs, pie charts and spreadsheets. (Though we have put some audiences to sleep with those.)

Instead, we read them stories, make up stories, and even sing songs that are stories. (We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to find a big one . . .)

One of the most valuable things you can do to enhance your leadership is figure out your story. 

  • Where does your product or service fit in your customer’s story?
  • What story led to the starting of your company?
  • What is the story behind you joining your company?
  • What story is the throughline of your life, and how does what you are doing fit that story? Understanding this personal connection can help you engage with your audience on a deeper level.

 

Then, figure out how to tell the story with humor, intrigue, and an “all-is-lost moment.” People will be captivated by it. Because if last week proved anything, it’s that we love good stories.

And I say this without apology: The best leaders are the best storytellers.

So, start crafting your story today and see the impact it can have on your leadership.

 

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Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Chief Operating Officer for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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