The Power of Storytelling for Leaders, Entrepreneurs, & Innovators

Why great storytelling is essential to your success — whether you’re building a business, a community, or your personal brand.

Juan Leal
IDEA: Northeastern’s Venture Accelerator
4 min readDec 17, 2020

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IDEA Team in the Lab

In 2018, U.S. adults spent over 11 hours per day “watching, reading, listening to, or interacting with media.”

And with an ongoing global pandemic, our screen times are through the roof and we are oversaturated with information.

As the world becomes more digital, we spend more time scrolling through social media and sifting through an abundance of information online — giving rise to the modern attention economy as an ever-growing stream of competition fights for our eyeballs.

In a sea of sameness, you must stand out and be unforgettable.

With hundreds of millions of content pieces being created and shared every day — it’s all too easy for businesses to blend into the noise. And so for business leaders and entrepreneurs alike, one skill is becoming more important than ever: storytelling.

3 Reasons Why Great Storytelling Is Essential to Your Success

Whether you’re building a business, growing a community, or developing your own personal brand — harnessing the power of storytelling is of paramount importance to your personal & professional success. Here’s why.

IDEA’s Former CEO Telling the IDEA Story at the 10 Year Kick-off

1. Stories are much more effective than just facts & figures

Storytelling is a tenet of human culture — as stories have been passed down from generation to generation for as long as we’ve existed. Stories activate our emotions. And as humans, our brains are wired to make decisions based on emotions rather than logic. Where do you think ‘gut feelings’ come from?

So by crafting a narrative that communicates your values, your purpose, and your story, you are speaking directly to the subconscious mind — the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotions, and for all human behavior & decision-making. According to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman, 95% of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind.

Without emotion, we are biologically incapable of making decisions — and logic is often the last step in the process. This is why great stories pack an emotional punch to get people’s attention. After all:

“Messages delivered as stories can be up to 22x more memorable than just facts.”

2. We all want to be part of a greater purpose

According to Kantar Consulting, “Brands with a high sense of purpose have experienced a valuation increase of 175% over the past 12 years, compared to the median growth rate of 86%.” Authentic stories convey a deeper purpose that transcends the transactional level:

  • It’s why Apple’s ‘Think Different’ approach has people camping outside their stores overnight to buy their products — and how its loyal following made it the most valuable company in the world.
  • It’s why Patagonia’s company culture, its anti-consumerism movement, and its mission towards creating a more sustainable planet have made the company worth over $1 billion today.
  • It’s why TOMS’ developed a thriving customer base by giving a pair of shoes to people in need for every pair it sold.

More than ever, consumers are veering towards companies that act ethically and have deeper missions at their core. According to a study by Accenture, “63% of surveyed global consumers prefer to purchase products and services from companies that stand for a purpose that reflects their own values and beliefs, and will avoid companies that don’t.”

Therefore, it’s important to be able to communicate your mission through effective storytelling. By doing this, you will attract passionate people that believe what you believe. As Simon Sinek famously said in his world-renowned TED Talk:

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

3. People will trust, like, & engage with you more

According to Harvard psychologists, “The most important qualities to have when it comes to gaining trust are: sincerity, approachability, and vulnerability.”

This points to the importance of having a compelling & authentic personal brand — and one that taps into people’s emotions. One that is relatable, genuine, and human. Whether you know it or not, everyone has a unique personal story, and an authentic voice that can inspire and influence others.

Creating a strong personal brand brings a number of benefits:

  • It makes you a better leader, manager, and mentor — allowing you to develop stronger relationships with people on your team.
  • It makes you more likable — compelling people to want to connect with you. In turn, this allows you to build a stronger network that will refer you to others and support you in pushing towards your goals.
  • It gives you credibility, legitimacy, and makes you (as well as your business) more attractive to investors.
  • It pushes you to dig deeper into your inner self — allowing you find your purpose and helping you remember why you started.

Start Telling Your Story

The power of effective storytelling is often overlooked — but it is a key skill to learn for both personal & professional success. A great story taps into people’s subconscious minds, where decision-making happens. It communicates your values, your deeper purpose, and what you stand for.

Whether you’re building a venture or growing a following through your own personal brand, consider honing your storytelling skills to win and inspire loyal customers, investors, team members, and followers.

Lastly — if you don’t know where to begin, The Campfire Effect is a simple, yet effective framework to develop compelling narratives that will tap into people’s emotions. Give it a try.

If you are interested in getting involved with IDEA or learning more about us, please visit this page or subscribe to our newsletter!

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Juan Leal
IDEA: Northeastern’s Venture Accelerator

Life-long learner. Born in Mexico, raised in Italy, based in New York.