When people try to figure out how to be a great leader, they often read about selecting the right team members or defining goals clearly. Leadership really comes down to communication, though — making storytelling a vital component of any management style.
Great leaders should be great storytellers to connect with and support their team members effectively. This guide will show you 10 ways to become one so you can wield narrative powers to accomplish your goals. A little creativity might be what everyone needs to get off the ground and build confidence in their leader.
1. Find Your Vision
Before learning how to use storytelling as a leadership tool, you’ll have to find your vision. What do you want for your team? How will they fit into your organization? Visions define every project and long-term work. They also build the foundation for your employees’ confidence.
Define your vision by creating the right narrative. Speak to your team or company about what motives drive your goals. Maybe you want to exemplify the business’s integrity or devotion to customer service through every future endeavor. Include these key company motives in your narrative vision to define your workers’ purpose.
Another benefit of drafting stories with your company’s motives is that they can double as marketing material. Merge your narratives into projects and campaigns so they inspire your team members and clients. Most people are always up for a good story, especially if they get to know a company they already rely on.
2. Capture Their Interest
Lecturing about goals and strategies in front of a packed conference room doesn’t carry the same weight as presenting your ideas with visual aids. People will lose interest in what you say if they only have to listen. Stories often include presentations or props to capture the listeners’ interests and add depth to the narrative.
Bright colors, photos and charts are easier to process than words. Experts agree that 93% of human communication relies on visual examples, like graphs or prototypes. Your team narratives may include props like these or paint pictures using descriptive language within an engaging storyline.
Team members will walk away from your meeting with a new story ruminating in their minds, rather than a massive infodump that leaves them with a headache. Narratives are more inspirational and personal. People won’t forget your messaging or objectives after your story captures their imaginations.
3. Organize Your Teams
Focusing on organization is one of the best tips to be a better leader. It’s challenging to work together if no one knows what they’re aiming for. Efforts like streamlined data entry and simple filing systems boost workplace productivity because no one’s left without necessary resources.
Storytellers can improve their team’s organization by crafting goals into narratives that have a beginning, middle and end. The story shows everyone which steps will take them forward and not backward. It makes them more productive together and minimizes wasted time.
4. Recall Employee Success Stories
Stories are also a way to reflect on successes. If co-workers or team members don’t feel recognized, they won’t remain motivated to contribute. Leadership and storytelling go hand in hand because everyone needs to hear why their work mattered.
Managers or supervisors should reward employees by praising hard work to encourage their continued efforts. They’ll feel inspired when everyone hears about what they did and takes pride in their place on the team. It’s also a subliminal challenge that lights a fire under your workers. People will want to be the next person celebrated for their accomplishments and work that much harder to provide results.
5. Define Your Values
You can also learn how to be a great leader by defining your values through storytelling. Anyone can read a bullet-point list of what matters to a team or business, but that information will resonate when introduced through a story.
Connect the company’s core beliefs in accountability and honesty with examples of how team members put them into action. Narratives explain these values and provide the results employees need to understand them. A story about how someone went the extra mile to make a client more confident in their proposal illustrates the integrity vital to a business’s core set of values.
6. Form a Team Identity
Identity drives productivity and a sense of belonging. Team members should be able to recognize what they’re working toward and the point of their efforts. A recent poll found that team members felt a stronger sense of belonging when they knew their work was important, circling directly back to workplace identity.
You’ll know how to use storytelling as a leadership tool when you craft narratives that build team identity. Discuss how each project builds on your company’s reputation for community work, flawless sourcing or data-driven marketing campaigns.
When you talk about building a future together based on each team member’s skills and what they accomplish, the story becomes the foundation for a strong identity. It makes storytelling one of the most critical leadership skills for ongoing success.
7. Address Delicate Issues
Some issues are challenging to touch on without people feeling isolated or offended. It’s critical that everyone feels welcome in their workplace, so use storytelling to discuss delicate interpersonal or cultural topics whenever possible.
Narratives create nonexistent third parties people can learn from without risking anyone’s reputation or standing. Characters can manage diversity issues or make room for inclusion before opening the floor for audience feedback. They can also provide examples of unacceptable behaviors and become the standard of what management won’t tolerate.
It’s one of the reasons why storytelling is essential to leadership. Supervisors or managers can work through problems with their team while learning from each other to make the workplace better for everyone.
8. Give Constructive Feedback
Leaders never stop coaching their team. It’s something to take pride in and learn from. People look up to you and value your opinion, so your feedback is critical to their professional growth. If you use the wrong language or approach a situation ineffectively, people won’t receive your feedback well.
Narratives are an excellent way to provide constructive feedback that facilitates growth.
The most common tips to be a better leader follow the same eight principles that address the relationship between management and team members.
Addressing feedback quickly solves many problems right away. Storytelling can do this by setting the scene with what the team member did correctly. Follow the descriptive reminder by explaining what they can do to continue that work. The story aligns your advice with context and encouragement. Employees are more likely to reward you with active listening and engagement.
Stories don’t always require a fictional plotline. Help your teammates grow into their strengths and develop their skills by forming narratives around your constructive feedback.
9. Empower Your Team
People know they have a great leader when they feel empowered. Even when they’re part of a team, they should trust their abilities and decisions. Supervisors can give their employees a narrative about how their work will influence the future.
Remind them of all the good they contribute in their current roles so no one gets caught up in deadlines. The constant pressure to fulfill assignments and projects might create tunnel vision that keeps people from feeling like they make a difference. Empowerment translates directly into engagement because everyone knows they have something to contribute.
Leadership and storytelling become one when team members hear about what’s possible. Describe the many ways they can make a difference in their current roles. They’ll set bigger goals and contribute to your team because they can picture their future.
10. Deliver Effective Results
Stories are easier to grasp and process than clinical goals and projections. They create images of a future that everyone wants. Knowing what’s possible motivates everyone to deliver results and become the hero of their story. Hone your leadership skills into storytelling and you’ll see better results turned in at every deadline.
You can then use your team’s prior achievements as key narratives for future projects. Remind them of what they accomplished and how they grew from past challenges. Your stories will turn their history into legend and pave the way for continued success.
Become a Great Leader With Stories
Great leaders should be great storytellers because they’ll strengthen their workplace. It’s why storytelling is important to leadership. You should always want your strategies to improve your team as well as the company.
Wield vivid imagery and heroic storylines to encourage your employees and help them grow. With time, you’ll use these tips to be a better leader and learn how to use narratives in different settings.
Ginger Abbot is a career and learning writer. When she’s not freelancing, she’s serving as Editor-in-Chief for the education publication Classrooms.