Do good Storytellers make good leaders?

Storytelling

My daughter and my husband had a night routine where they would weave a new story overnight with their characters – an old man (named Khammam), a dog (named Khatkhat) and a parrot (named totey). They would go on picnics, long drives, fly kites with these characters every night. As an actor, my husband would call all the characters in different tones and my daughter learnt to speak with kindness, with pity, with anger, with happiness. Some days, they would help a person on their ride, some day they would sing songs and some days they would get late and miss their flight.

Fifteen years later, they still talk about those stories and it is something that only they two share and understand.

We read my pictorial stories together and she learnt to recite couplets from Madhushala at the age of five.

Storytelling helps parents to bond with their children, to encourage them and to make memories. Each family has a treasure trove of stories which they repeat to laugh and cry together.

Stories create magic, stories bring joy, and stories bind us and convey valuable lessons.

Can leaders tell stories to become effective?

Paul Smith, author of Lead with A Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince and Inspire, says that leaders can use storytelling to inspire the organisation, set a vision, teach important lessons, define culture and values and explain who you are and what you believe.

There are organisations like Nike where all the senior executives are designated Corporate Storytellers.

Storytelling brings heart in the task called Leadership and makes it humane.

Just as family stories inculcate values and shower love, leadership stories give a sense of belonging and inspire the whole team.

In my first Leadership session, I teach my students to “Try again, Fail again, Fail better”.

My personal story strikes a chord instantly. I failed my class X Board exam in Hindi subject.

I was always a meritorious student and everyone expected me to top the class as always. When the results were declared, I had secured and eighteen out of hundred in Hindi, while the aggregate was 70%. A failure in the first board exam was traumatic, more so because I had no explanation for it.

Family members, friends of my parents, class-mates showed sympathy on my face and made fun on my back.

I was devastated and depressed. I felt helpless and cheated but I had no control over the situation. The only thing I could do was to apply for revaluation which I did. I had to appear for supplementary exam as the revaluation result didn’t come out in time. After four grueling months, I received an envelope which carried a revaluation marksheet with a merit certificate. My original marks were 91 out of 100 and I had scored among the top 0.01% of the CBSE Board students.

Those four months taught me the biggest lessons of my life.

  • I learnt to fail, fail again and fail better.
  • I learnt to laugh at adversity and take it in my stride.
  • I learnt to take myself less seriously.
  • I learnt to try, to hope for the best, yet be prepared for the worst.
  • I learnt to be fearless – as a human being.
  • I learnt to be cool – as a parent.
  • I learnt to be encouraging – as a leader.

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