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Faculty Perspective

Discovering Your Authentic Leadership & Storytelling

a storytelling book

With the workplace transitioning to primarily remote-working, authentic leadership and connections are more important than ever. To effectively lead a team, especially one that doesn’t meet in person everyday, you need to instill trust and confidence in your colleagues. Authenticity plays an essential role in establishing and building that trust. A key way to demonstrate authenticity is through the stories you decide to tell about yourself—your struggles and successes, and wisdom.

But what does being authentic really mean? It’s simple—stay true to your values and be self-aware of your experiences in life. It can be easy to be motivated by external sources of success, such as money and power, but oftentimes people are unable to sustain this extrinsic success. By allowing yourself to explore and experience the world surrounding you, you can find motivation from your inner values to succeed professionally. B. George, P. Sims,  A. McLean, and D. Mayer conducted a study to interview 125 successful leaders to uncover how they developed their leadership qualities. What did they find? The leaders didn’t share any overlapping characteristics, traits, skills or styles because each individual drew on past experiences in life to connect with and inspire others. Instead of being motivated by external rewards, these leaders were driven by their personal values, choosing to lead with both their heads and hearts. 

Another element of authentic leadership stems from one’s ability to engage, move, and motivate others through storytelling. While most executives have experience using conventional rhetoric (i.e., statistics, facts, PowerPoint presentations) to persuade their audience, it is those who tell a compelling story who are more successful in doing so. We’ve been telling stories from the day we were born; it is how we as human beings remember the important aspects of life. Instead of lists and bullet points, humans are drawn towards emotions and personal experiences. Individuals who want to improve their leadership style need to understand the value of storytelling and how to incorporate it into their workplace. 

Tips for Successful Storytelling: 

  1. Don’t sugarcoat the issue(s) 
    1. Life isn’t perfect and your audience will understand that. Instead of painting a perfect picture, work to connect with your listeners on a more personal level by speaking your truth. 
  2. Create suspense when painting the picture 
    1. Captivating stories are those that display the dynamic relationship between expectation and reality. Leaders can successfully engage their audience by framing the problems in the foreground and then explaining how they’ve overcome them.
  3. Self-awareness is the key
    1. The more you understand yourself, the more you can understand and see the humanity in others. Your audience will be more likely to connect with you and support your cause. 


Dive Deeper

Take a deep-dive into this topic and gain expert, working knowledge by joining us for the program that inspired it!

High-Impact Leadership Program

Develop your authentic voice and turn your communication weaknesses into strengths through world-class theater techniques and storytelling.

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