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You Live and Lead in a World of Stories

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Tue Jul 23 2013

You Live and Lead in a World of Stories
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“If you are a leader, you are the narrator.” That’s something I frequently tell my clients, and it is true for you as well.

Think about the movies you’ve seen with a narrator. You know what the narrator’s job is, right? The narrator is that disembodied voice who comments on the action and tells us, the audience, how to interpret and make sense of what we are seeing on screen. 

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You know: “And after that magical summer, nothing was ever the same again…”

One of my favorite narrator moments comes in the cult movie “The Big Lebowski.” At one point during the movie’s many bizarre twists and turns, the narrator just gives up. “I’ve lost my train of thought here,” he says. It’s a hilarious moment in the movie, but in reality, a narrator who can’t draw meaning from the narrative isn’t much use to us.

The people in your team, your function, and your organization are living a story. It’s a dramatic journey of heroes, and it is unfolding right now. As a leader, you are the narrator, and your role is to comment on the story and help people make sense of it.

Step back for a moment and consider what kind of story are you and your colleagues living right now? Are you inhabiting a narrative of heroes against impossible odds, like Luke Skywalker approaching the Death Star for one last battle? Do you find yourselves in a quiet, content place where you resist a call to a bigger, more risky adventure, like Bilbo Baggins at home in his Hobbit hole in Bag End? Or, perhaps your team is in the cave, facing your darkest moment and your greatest trial—and not yet believing you have the inner resources to move forward.

Wherever you are, you and your people inhabit a dramatic story. And sometimes the greatest gift you can give to your team—in moments of defeat or triumph—is to remind them that we are the heroes of or own journey. And the story isn’t over yet.

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In this series of blogs, we are going to explore the idea that storytelling is one of your core competencies as a leader. We’ll discuss ways you can foster and exercise your own natural capacity for thinking in narrative. 

And we will look at many applications of the fast-growing body of knowledge that is organizational narrative, and consider how it can be exercised for the purposes of

  • increasing engagement

  • building brand

  • archiving knowledge

  • speeding the change process

  • maintaining and evolving culture

  • bringing the organizational identity vividly to life.

Most of all, we will explore your role as chief meaning maker of your organization’s story. Next week we’ll pick up where we left off.

This is a fun topic... and it is one where you already have enormous capability! I hope you’ll share your ideas and questions. I hope you’ll join me for our next blog conversation together.   And most importantly, I hope you’ll start noticing the many opportunities around you to start telling purposeful, strategic organizational stories.

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