Storytelling and the art of leadership

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Storytelling and the art of leadershipRichard Hall

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Context: contemporary leadershipWhat leadership behaviours improve engagement?Model the wayInspire a shared visionChallenge the processEnable others to actEncourage the heart

The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes and Posner)

Showing genuine concern for others

Transformational Leadership Questionnaire (Alimo-Metcalfe)

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The leadership challengeCommunication is key

A majority of management / leadership time is spent in communication

Studies of organisational discourse tell us that:Organisations are constituted in and through discoursesLeadership is achieved and reproduced in and through discourses

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The case for stories and storytellingStories have a unique capacity to achieve sensemaking, emotional activation and motivation

(Good) stories are:EngagingMovingCompellingMemorableProvocativeConfrontingHuman

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Some leadership stories

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Stories about who we are Identity

Steve JobsAfter Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 he told an in-house meeting of senior managers that Apple had to get back to basics and more clearly define what the company really stood for.

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Stories about who we are Identity (Steve Jobs)

Steve Jobs introduced the now-famous Think Different marketing campaign, which featured famous identities who had changed the world. For Jobs, this campaign highlighted Apples core belief that the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

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Stories about change and turnaround Strategic Vision

Jeff ClarkeKodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012. But Jeff Clarke, who took on the job of Kodak CEO in 2014 is busy telling a new story about the turnaround at Kodak, with the companynow turning a profit.

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Stories about why we do what we do Persuasive Communication 2

John WoodJohn Wood was as a senior marketing executive for Microsoft in the 1990s.

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Stories about why we do what we do Persuasive Communication

A year after a holiday trek through the Himalayas and seeing the poor conditions of one of Nepals most remote schools, John Wood returned with 3000 donated school books. Wood then left Microsoft to establish the global non-profit, Room to Read.

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Conclusions, tips and take-aways

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ConclusionsLeadership communication is about sensemaking

Stories help people make sense of complex and important things

Unlike three-word slogans, stories can communicate subtlety, ambiguity, uncertainty and be empowering

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Some classic techniquesUse characters so that listeners can identify and personaliseUse rhetorical questions to engage and empowerEmploy Two-Part Contrasts (TPCs) for impactRefer to Lists of Three (LOTs)Repeat key phrases at strategic points to build momentumBe flexible in the telling

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Some final tipsThink about telling a story

Practice your storySettingCharactersPlot or intrigueMood and toneTheme, values and ideas

The greatest leadership stories are about PURPOSE

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