Why leaders should tell stories

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Storyteller: “Once upon a time”

Listeners: “Time, time”

I still get excited listening to those two phrases.

My ears perk up and I am ready to soak in the story being told.

Growing up that’s how stories always started.

Perhaps it’s because one of my favourite things to do is sit under the tree and listen to my grandmother or uncles and aunties tell stories, but I remember these evenings from decades ago.

I remember the stories.

I re-tell these stories.

I remember the lessons.

And for some stories I can tell you exactly where the storyteller was sitting.

I can tell you the expression on their face.

I can tell you the parts of their story that made me jump!

I can tell you the parts of the story that made me sad, or gleeful.


And that makes sense doesn’t it?

Narratives are powerful.

They evoke emotion and feelings.

We remember those emotions, those feelings.

Whether it was inspiration, or fear, or disbelief, or wide-eyed wonderment, or resonant understanding.

Whatever it was … we may not remember all the words … but we remember the way it made us feel.

And we remember the lessons … because the lesson sank in.

And if you think about what the greatest leaders we’ve known and know do, they show us a vision of something not yet realized, and then inspire or drive us to achieve it.

They create an emotion around that vision – a desire to achieve it.

At other times they impart new skills or ways of thinking and the great leaders deliver the lesson in such a poignant way that we remember.

So what could be a more apt tool for a leader seeking to inspire and teach, than a story?

As a leader, do you know what stories you tell about your mission and vision?


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