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Business Leadership Through Storytelling

Today’s social makeup has turned into one that revolves around storytelling. We share our stories with family, friends, and even strangers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Rarely do we drop a bunch of statistics on a social media site. Why? Because it’s the stories that create the strongest connection between people and this is something that has been a growing trend in business leadership for many years. In fact, Steve Jobs understood this well and has been termed by some as one of the world’s greatest business storytellers.

The Effective Leadership of Steve Jobs

Overcoming adversity, heroes and villains may be the stuff of great novels or movies. Steve Jobs discovered that these are also key elements to influencing people and selling one’s ideas. Jobs’ product launches were the stuff of legend because of his ability to inject stories with drama into each and every one. This played out again and again, from the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 to the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007.

Many will also remember the famous Commencement address delivered by Jobs at Stanford University in 2005. In the address, Jobs tells three stories that relay separate but very powerful ideas. The first was about connecting the dots, the second was about finding what you love in all areas of your life, and the third was about living life to its fullest. While powerful ideas on their own, in the context of the stories that were told, they evoke a strong emotional response and connection. Interestingly, just this year, more than a decade after that speech was given, LeBron James credits Jobs’ storytelling from this event as providing some of the much-needed inspiration for the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Business Leadership Through Storytelling

The centerpiece of effective leadership is influence and nothing persuades people more than a powerful story. Trying to convince people with logic may seem logical, but it doesn’t work for several reasons. A portion of your audience will be arguing with you in their heads as you make your case. Those who agree with you may only be won over on an intellectual level, and not everyone is inspired to act based on reason alone. In fact, there was a study done at Ohio State University which concluded that people’s beliefs are more easily influenced by storytelling as opposed to just logical arguments.

Elements to Effective Storytelling

While we all love to tell stories on some level, making them effective for business and leadership purposes requires some planning. Remember that the ending and the takeaway message are crucial, so plan your story around these elements. The best stories are about overcoming some sort of challenge or conflict. Start with a person and their challenge and work from there. Keep stories brief, at about three to five minutes or you’ll risk losing your audience’s interest. Finally, make sure you practice telling your story over and over again so that you are comfortable with the sequence and the emotion.

Storytelling can be one of the most effective ways for leaders to communicate ideas, affect change, and transmit values. Using this method of business leadership transforms dry statistics and logic into compelling images of a company’s goals.