Storytelling has become a mainstay for effective and persuasive leadership, and for good reason. With well-crafted stories, leaders inspire, influence, and motivate their people. They build powerful relationships, evoke memories and emotions, and engage and captivate audiences.
Impactful leaders share personal stories and experiences to inspire people to embrace their vision and ideas, follow their direction, give their business a meaning and purpose, and sell their products/services.
Here are 5 steps to craft your personal leadership story:
1. Collect experiences and document them.
Personal and professional experiences are a gold mine of stories. Some you remember, others you don’t. A habit of jotting down these experiences and indexing them with the right keywords makes them easily accessible. Enrich your life with several experiences out of your comfort zone; adventure sports or public speaking, for example. Such experiences help shape a person and can become important turning points in your story.
Often, identifying the right moments to remember can be difficult. Ask yourself these questions to recollect experiences and choose which to store:
- What would your school and college professors say about you? Are you the same person now or have you grown?
- Who influenced you to take this career journey? What did they say or do that inspired you?
- Which leaders have you followed throughout your life? Which books and movies inspired you?
2. Recall crossroads and crises.
A common misconception people have about leaders is that they know early on in their lives that they wanted to lead. Or that leaders always make right choices. Sharing stories about a turning point in your career or a crisis that changed your path and made you what you are today is not only interesting to hear but extremely inspiring.
Recall situations from your past where:
- You set out to achieve a goal, but something changed, and you had to switch careers or jobs. What did you learn from this shift?
- Your best ideas came from someone outside your team or company, e.g., a nagging customer who went on and on about his problems with your product and helped you remould and perfect it.
- You lacked motivation to finish a project. What pushed you to the finish line and how do you ensure it doesn’t happen again?
3. Be authentic.
The last thing a leader should do is fake their stories. There’s no harm in sharing stories about other people; but never make them yours. People love to hear about things that inspire you, and it can very well be someone else’s struggle, victory, or misfortune.
- Find your voice and tone. Just as a brand conducts certain experiments and exercises to understand themselves, do the same for your individual brand.
- Plan how you want to structure your stories, do you want them to be humorous or serious? Everybody loves jokes, but if you aren’t naturally funny, should you pursue this route?
- Identify and build your values and principles. How do they make you a better leader?
- Share your ideas for the company and how they will affect people who join your team.
4. Practice your stories.
Once you know what to say, spend time in front of the mirror narrating your stories to yourself. Practice makes perfect. This is where you can allow yourself to experiment, make mistakes, and rework your pitch. Then, practice in front of a friend or two. Notice how people respond to your stories. Observe their body language—are they intrigued or bored? Do they interact and participate or is your narration a one-way stream? Do they ask questions and come back for more insights or do they only appreciate and leave?
5. Ask for feedback.
And take it positively. Share your doubts after a talk and ask listeners for feedback. Never take feedback to be a comment on your lack of skills; always take it as guidelines for improvement. Ask questions like:
- Could you relate to the story? Which part?
- What were your key takeaways from the story?
- Would you have liked it if I was more funny or emotional?
- Did you feel warm and welcome when I was speaking? Or were you uncomfortable and irritated?
Storytelling Business India
Once you know how people feel about your stories, work to develop the areas you need improvement in. Remember, stories inspire and motivate people, elicit emotion and energy, help lead change, help people work in teams and are effective for coaching and giving feedback. Therefore, it is important for leaders to have well-crafted personal leadership stories.
Suggested Further Reading: 7 Storytelling Tips for Effective Leadership by Akhil Kakkar in YourStory.com.