Authentic Storytelling on the Inside

May 31, 2007 § Leave a comment

In my hero Seth Godin‘s book All Marketers are Liars, he describes the power of authentic stories in the context of outbound communication.  Stephen Denning (formerly of the World Bank) brings that same perspective to internal communication in The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling. He not only shows how the power of authentic narrative can bring about transformational change within an organization, he paints an inspiring picture of what kind of leaders — or really, human beings — we need to become to pull that off: 

Interactive, Tolstoyan leadership builds on personal integrity and authenticity. Because you can communicate who you are and what you stand for, others comes to know and respect you for that. Because you are attentive to the world as it is, your ideas are sound. Because you speak the truth, you are believed. Because you treat others as ends in themselves rather than as means to your own ends, people trust you. Becuase you make your values explicit and act in accord with those values, your values become contagious and others start to share them. Because you listen to the world, the world listens to you. Because you are open to innovation, happy accidents happen. Because you bring meaning into the world of work, you are able to get superior results.

Importantly, in this mode:

You don’t fight your opponents, you invalidate them… You behave as if you already possess moral authority…Truth and authenticity are your most powerful weapons…Thus, in the interacive, Tolstoyan mode, dealing with opponents isn’t about winning…You must make your opponents unwitting allies. This means neither hurting them nor eroding their confidence. Instead you deal with opponents by besting them. Besting leaves opponents unhurt and even inspired. Besting is a mode in which you demonstrate to your antagonist your moral superiority. Through narrative, you offer a clear and inspiring new future, one that motivates everyone.


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