Chapter 2

The importance of business storytelling

Stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.

Howard Gardner, Harvard University

In this chapter we explore how business storytelling can help you with the challenges of being a leader in the 21st century.

We also look at the importance of emotion in leadership and how you can make emotion work for you; the importance of personal credibility; and we will introduce you to the concept of ‘the curse of knowledge’. (Don’t panic! We will explain what this is shortly.)

Face the facts: times have changed

When we speak to leaders about using storytelling in business, they often say, ‘I knew it — I knew there was something I was missing!’ In leadership, that good-old, military-style command and control where you just tell people what to do and give them the facts — and whatever you ask for is simply done — doesn’t work anymore, no matter how much we wish it would!

Too often, leaders fall into the trap of thinking people will automatically listen to them and take appropriate, effective action in response to what they expect just because of their authoritative position. They soon learn that leading others is much more complicated than that. People are much more complicated than that. Even in the military, communication and leadership are the two biggest challenges leaders face every day.

Leadership has moved from ‘command and control’ to what organisational storyteller and author Steve Denning describes as ‘engage ...

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