Lessons From a Master Storyteller

I had the pleasure of hearing E. Gordon Gee speak at a dinner several years ago when I taught in the Integrated Marketing Communications program at West Virginia University. I was so impressed with his ability to connect with the audience that I wrote an article about it back then and included his story in my book, “Prescribing Leadership in Healthcare.” He uses a lot of self-deprecating humor in his stories because it leads to high viral probability when posted on social media.

Here is the video from the event. Even if you only watch part the video, you will learn something about incorporating storytelling into your daily leadership practice.

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Storytelling With My Family

As we prepare for the launch of our Storytelling for Leaders Master Class, I’ve reflected on my life as a story gatherer and storyteller. I’ve loved writing and telling stories since I was young. Family interactions can be some of the most impactful stories to tell.

I heard stories from my great-grandparents as they told us about growing up on farms in Louisiana. I vividly remember my great-grandmother telling us about how they would get a chicken from the farm for dinner.

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“Free Your Mind,” Matrix Style With Great Stories

As we learned in “The Matrix”, perception is not always reality. That is also true to when it comes to leadership. Leaders are only as good as their people perceive them to be.

In our Professional Leadership Training programs, we address the perception versus reality dichotomy with a peer assessment. Participants are usually surprised to see that what they considered to be their leadership attributes were not what their peers thought, both positively and negatively.

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Tales From the Leadership Front – Origin Stories

At the end of each chapter in my book Prescribing Leadership in Healthcare, I tell a personal “Tales from the Leadership Front” story to summarize the chapter content with insights from the leaders I’ve met.

In my travels I get to meet some great leaders and am thrilled when we discuss their leadership journey. I especially enjoy hearing their leadership origin story or what in their life made them into the leader they are today. A leader must be aware of their origin story to understand who they are as a leader and why they are leading. As Simon Sinek says, ‘knowing the why’ is critical to their success.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Was Also a Great Storyteller

We all recognize Dr. Martin Luther King as a great leader and a great orator, but did you know he was also a master storyteller?

In my university leadership classes, we regularly study Dr. King as a leader and I have listened to his speeches countless times. As I was working on the new Leadership Storytelling Master Class for our Professional Leadership Academy, I began reflecting on Dr. King’s accomplishments and his speeches. His accomplishments came to mind because I probably wouldn’t be doing the work I do without the strides he helped make. His speeches were great, but I wondered how they worked as stories. I was quite impressed with what I learned. For this exercise, I examined his March on Washington speech from 1963 (commonly referred to as the “I Have a Dream” speech). Here are some of the storytelling techniques he used and the lessons for leaders to use in their storytelling:

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