Steve Denning is the former director of Knowledge Management at the World Bank, author of the award-winning books The Secret Language of Leadership and The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, and a noted authority on leadership strategy. Peter Guber invited Steve to participate in one of the story conclaves he hosted in 2008, where he pointed out that the brevity of stories can give leaders a telling edge in organizational settings. “You may have no more than minutes, even seconds,” he said, “but an oral story can get the job done in that short time frame.” Moreover, Denning has found, when listeners hear a story — as opposed to a data dump — is coming, they usually welcome it. They relax, come to attention quickly, and focus on the teller. They don’t squirm and busy themselves with text messaging as I’ve seen so many employees and students do when a strategy lecture or power-point presentation begins.
In this engaged state, listeners also are more receptive to the emotional and human truth within the teller’s story. Business audiences actually will trust a teller like Collier who acknowledges his own human frailty more than they would if he’d pretended to be some sort of executive god who could do no wrong. Tales of perfection fail dramatically because they never ring true. But when a leader uses authentic drama to reveal the hidden truth about a problem his business is facing, he guides the audience to feel as if they’re uncovering the truth themselves.
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To validate the power of telling purposeful stories, Guber includes in this book a remarkably diverse number of ‘voices’ – master tellers with whom he’s shared experiences. They include YouTube founder Chad Hurley, NBA champion Pat Riley, clothing designer Norma Kamali, “Mission to Mars” scientist Gentry Lee, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, former South African president Nelson Mandela, magician David Copperfield, film director Steven Spielberg, novelist Nora Roberts, rock legend Gene Simmons, and physician and author Deepak Chopra.
After listening to this extraordinary mix of voices, you’ll know how to craft, deliver – and own – a story that is truly compelling, one capable of turning others into viral advocates for your goal.