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Influential Leaders are Master Storytellers

Photocred: Powerful and Influential Women

As an influential leader, one of the best attributes you have to refine is speaking with authority and inspiring action. People will naturally respect you because of qualities they see in you, making them interested in listening to you. It may be how they see you or perceive you or because you are speaking about an area of their interest.

One of the ways that you can use to get attention from audiences is the art of storytelling.

Since the beginning of time, humanity has passed on information, history, and traditions through storytelling. It is no wonder then that the moment one starts narrating a story, there is a natural inclination to listen.

Stories create more than just emotional empathy or connection with a character; they also create a physical response from our bodies. They have an ability to create excitement, joy or fear, dependent on how the story progresses. This is the impact and a level of commitment to stories that leave lasting memories and impressions, and why storytelling is such a powerful tool for teaching and inspiration. Good stories are not just heard; they are felt and leave a lasting impression on the listeners.

The most impressionable leaders I have met seemed to possess an incredible ability for storytelling. They seemed to understand the critical leadership story, undoubtedly a pitch. They had an ability to paint a ‘’Come with me to the Promise Land story. One of these leaders I can remember was a gentleman called Sam. Sam could tell a story, painting a vision of where we were headed as an organization. He captured all of us through storytelling. I remember one of the most inspiring pictures he painted was using a metaphor of building a plane midair.

Now this is a powerful vision to Salespeople as it painted a challenge that inspired all to action. While this seemed ludicrous at first, it was the best story of driving a team to develop a new business division with minimal resources. People had to find solutions instead of waiting for them because we all had the responsibility of building this plane as it was moving.

Other Leaders are motivators by nature and have an incredible way of narrating stories of the challenges they have been through and how they overcame them. An example of this is Mteto Nyati’s book: Betting on a Darkie. In this way, they can build confidence in the team, especially when going through the tough seasons.

This means that the stories have to be relevant to each context.

Here are a few things I have learned about the art of storytelling:

  1. Paint the scene

Some storytellers have found a simplistic structure of building a story, and it is divided into three: 1) The setup, 2) the struggle, and; 3) the solution.

There are crucial elements in each part, which form the story’s arc and make it a powerful experience for the listener. As an example, the craft of painting the setup is essential because it will determine whether people are willing to come with you or not. Often, questions are a powerful tool to get the audience interested and create a curiosity gap. For your questions to land and to have an impact, make sure you use the word ‘’you’’ in them.

2. Paint the central story, but do not forget the extras

Imagine how boring the movies would be without the extras. Yet, this is an aspect we often forget in telling stories.

When we narrate a story, there is a natural inclination to focus on the subject of interest. However, a particularly effective way of pulling the audience in is to add the following dimensions: 1) enriching the narrative by expanding on the central subject to the surrounding events or environment. An example would be relating a story about the day I lost my mother. The focus could be on emotions and what is happening at the story’s center when describing the story. There are, however, other aspects around the surroundings that can be additions and essential to explain the mood. These can mean a difference between a stale story or a powerful message and are necessary to expand painting the sad event and explosive atmosphere.

What is essential is to create an atmosphere that the audience relives the day with you. Take them with you and place them into the scene to fire up their imagination. Also, make the characters relatable. Expand on the history or background of the subject or event.

3. Capture the emotions

One of the ways I have found to particularly intrigue audiences is the art of capturing emotions. We often leave these unexploited as we are eager to speed through the story to keep the audience interested. There is power in pauses and expressing feelings, as these often speak to the audience and prompt them to feel: The end goal of your story is to create an emotional link, not only a logical one. One trick you can do is ask your audience to imagine how they would feel in that situation.

4. This is what I learned

At the end of each story, people want to see meaning and an end to the story. People are often keen to learn about your perspective. What did you make of the events that were unfolding? What are the decisions you made?

For more of these ideas, follow my writing on Medium and on Linkedin. I help Female Leaders to rise to their power and influence.



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A Marketer, with an absolute passion for new challenges. An advocate for inclusive societies and work places. Love for Technology and innovation.