I want to put another tool in your leadership toolbox and I want to tell you right up front what this tool is. It is the power of story.
Leaders should be storytellers. They should make story their main method of communicating information. They should work to be good storytellers and grow a body of stories ready for use in every situation. This is one of the skills of great leaders.
I came to my understanding of the power of story after years of speaking. I don’t mind telling you that I work hard on the speeches I give. This isn’t because I’m insecure or nervous. It is because I want to be credible and because I want to have lasting impact. As a result, I might research a short paragraph of historical data for hours. Or I might delve into the Greek or Hebrew of a Bible verse for the better part of a day. There are some speeches I have labored over for weeks.
Over time, I began to realize that while people might have appreciated evidence of the work I put into a speech, it was the stories I told that they remembered most. Years after I have given a speech, someone might catch me at an airport and excitedly tell me how much my talk meant to them. In every case, these kind people did not marvel at the new facts they learned. Instead, they recounted the stories I told. These are what stuck with them and made them think and live differently.
Though I appreciated this, I never quite understood why it occurred. Why were the stories I told often the most high-impact part of what I said? Why did stories seem to live forever while other parts of what I said seemed far less important?
There are three truths that explain this. All three are confirmed by psychologists and brain scientists, and all three are truths I hope you’ll apply to your communications life.
First, story is the best way to organize information. It is the best way to communicate truth. All great communicators—Jesus, Lincoln, Reagan, King, Thatcher—used story as their primary medium.
Second, story requires less energy for the human brain to access and retain. In an age when people face mountains of information, they will lean toward the most easily accessible form of information. This is always story.
Third, people not only remember stories, they also repeat them. Therefore, story is the best tool for building a culture. You tell a story. It gets repeated by your listeners. It becomes infectious. The truths in the story take root in minds and hearts. Your story then crafts a culture. Remember that culture is whatever is encouraged to grow.
Think back on your life. Remember the leaders and speakers who have impacted you most. Did they use story? Is that what you remember? Are their stories what you carry with you to this day? Probably. So, become like them. Everyone can be a good storyteller. Work at it. Enjoy it. Lead better for it.
That’s it. Have a good weekend.