Leadership & the Art of Story Telling

This morning we ran our first Women in Leadership workshop in Sydney. The feedback from participants has been really encouraging and now we’re looking forward to the next workshop in the series coming up on Thursday 19th May.

Our intent with today’s workshop was to uncover and examine the underlying source of confidence for leaders. Needless to say this much sought-after prize is relevant to men as well as to women but the stories from the room quickly made it clear that confidence can be particularly illusive for female leaders.

To cut a long story short the core insight was that, “leadership is contextual”. To put this another way, why you lead matters much, much more than how you lead. By definition you’re only a leader if you have followers so the key question has to be, why will people follow you?

What thing are you chasing that’s so big that you need others to help you bring it into being, and that others will want to help bring into being?

If you can answer this question cleanly and clearly the necessary confidence tends to turn up as a free extra. Conversely any lack of confidence can usually be traced back to uncertainty or doubt about purpose.

We then looked at applying this idea practically and asked, “What’s different for women? What barriers show up?” And then, “How can we flip these barriers into opportunities? Are they still really barriers if you have a compelling ‘why’?” And finally, “What actions can I take now based on what I’ve heard this morning?”

We had such an impressive array of organisations and women in the room sharing their experiences and insights into leadership and inevitably some of the most powerful moments were in the telling of personal stories.

From examples of influencing the change in airline policies on food, to the power of confidence (and a little chutzpah) in negotiating a pay rise whilst accepting that dream job offer, the stories were meaningful, impactful and told with passion. They had a cut through which was instant and powerful and their meaning will stay with those in the room long after the workshop.

Which leads me to my biggest personal take-away from the event – great leaders are great story tellers, because your ‘why’ is powerless until it’s communicated.