Executive Presence: Stronger with Leadership Storytelling

Executive-Presence-StorytellingSome executives have a knack for telling stories that explain a concept in vivid terms and inspire actions. If you don’t have that natural talent, you can increase your executive presence when you learn to use stories in a way that’s effective. Here’s why it’s so important.

The art of storytelling is a key element of leadership communications and a vital part of building executive presence. Cold, hard facts don’t inspire people to change. Straightforward analysis doesn’t excite anyone about a goal. A good story does. Here’s an example from one of my coaching clients.

For example, last week I was working with a CEO about to deliver a key presentation to his board. At issue was an acquisition and investment of several million dollars. While his presentation was loaded with research and facts, I asked him to put it into story form. He told a simple story of how one company failed because of missing an opportunity to expand when needed. His story revealed the possibilities and the emotional impact. He ended up getting the budget that he wanted, and inspired the support of key members.

Effective leadership requires stories that fire imaginations and stir souls. Our brains are wired to pay attention to stories. We quickly process information when it’s delivered in the form of a story, and we personalize it when we relate it to our own similar experiences.

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch excels at this skill, as did Apple’s Steve Jobs and many other successful leaders. They motivate by engaging people’s emotions through storytelling. Great leaders know how to harness stories to build powerful and unique executive presence.

A narrative magnetically and biochemically draws audiences into the process, compelling them to visualize the picture you’re painting with your words. Stories help your staff make the connections among theory, facts, real life and real people.

Consider the following story options:

  • A negative story, a failure, a lesson learned
  • A success story, especially in the face of difficulties
  • A case study (here’s an example)
  • Use of history, fables and mythology
  • A deeply personal story (a tragedy or rags-to-riches example)

When crafting a story, include as many specific details as possible to make it real to your audience. Be brief, and get to the point. Understatement often carries a bigger impact. Transport the listener by describing events in emotional terms. Keep it simple. Learn to use metaphors and analogies to summarize. Personalize your story with names, even if they need to be altered.

The more authentic your examples are, the more your stories will resonate with people. In real life, nothing is black or white. Real life is full of paradoxes and uncertainties. Tell your stories to make a point and deliver a lesson that has true value.

Are you using your own stories to make a point and get the buy-in you need? Need help? A coach can see things you can’t and help you excel at executive presence. Let’s talk; you can contact me here.

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