How to create stories to inspire the people you lead

Until recently, storytelling was about as welcome in the workplace as a crayon doodle on a napkin, according to Paul Smith in his book Lead With a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince and Inspire. But now storytelling has come of age. Many large companies are using storytelling as a key leadership tool, and several companies actively teach storytelling skills to their leaders.

The book explains why stories are an effective means of communication, and then goes on to show how stories can be used to address a range of different types of leadership challenges, including:

  • Setting a vision for the future
  • Leading change
  • Defining the organisation’s culture
  • Inspiring and motivating
  • Helping people to find passion for their work
  • Providing coaching and feedback
  • Encouraging innovation and creativity

Included amongst the chapters on addressing leadership challenges are chapters on the practical elements of creating and using stories effectively, including chapters on the structure of a story, keeping it real, stylistic elements, the element of surprise, metaphors and analogies, and recasting your audience into the story. The appendix includes a range of reproducible worksheets and checklists for creating stories.

The author takes his own advice, using stories to structure his content, so that the book as a whole is a compelling and emotionally engaging read. I find his advocacy of the use of stories persuasive, and the step-by-step instructions  and checklists for creating interesting stories will be very useful for any organisational leader who wants to acquire potent communication skills.

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