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Telling the Story: The Heart and Soul of Successful Leadership

Telling the Story: The Heart and Soul of Successful Leadership

Geoff Mead

ISBN: 978-1-118-61709-0

Mar 2014, Jossey-Bass

336 pages



How to master the art of narrative leadership

Telling the Story shows how leaders affect our understanding of what is possible and desirable through the stories they tell. It opens a door into the world of narrative leadership: what stories are and how they work; when to tell a story and how to tell one well; and how the language and metaphors we use influence our actions and change how we think about the world.

• Explains how narrative leadership shapes and defines what’s possible on an organizational level

• Written by a renowned consultant on the art of narrative leadership

• Challenges leaders to consider how narrative can influence and help create the kind of society they envision

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Acknowledgments xiii

Foreword xv

Introduction: Turning the Page 1

Narrative Leadership 2

Once Upon a Time 4

Why We Need New Stories 5

About This Book 8

Water on the Rock 10


Chapter 1: Why Stories Matter 15

Swimming in a Sea of Stories 15

Imagining Ourselves 18

Imagining Each Other 19

Imagining the World 21

Changing the Story 26

Bonus: Life of Pi 27

Summary 28

Chapter 2: Rethinking Leadership 31

Making Common Sense 33

Case Study: The Force Review 38

Conclusions 40

Bonus: Erin Brockovich 42

Summary 43


Chapter 3: Stories in Our Bones 47

Logos: The Science of Storytelling 49

Mythos: The Story of Storytelling 53

Bonus: Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner 60

Summary 61

Chapter 4: The World of Stories 63

Fact, Fiction, and Fantasy 63

Finding the Plot 71

Bonus: Big Fish 74

Summary 74

Chapter 5: How Stories Work 77

Information, Argument, and Story 82

Bonus: An Inconvenient Truth 87

Summary 89


Chapter 6: The Art of Narrative Leadership 93

Vinoba Bhave 98

Developing Our Capacity to Lead 105

Bonus: Alchemy in Action 109

Summary 110

Chapter 7: Know Thyself 113

The Storied Self 114

Being and Doing 117

Bonus: Groundhog Day 127

Summary 128

Chapter 8: Only Connect 131

Creating Communicative Spaces 132

Listening to the Story 138

Conversation Matters 139

Whose Stories Count? 141

Bonus: Local Hero 144

Summary 145

Chapter 9: Stand for Something 147

Leading Minds 148

What Is Your Story? 152

Bonus: The Man from Hope 161

Summary 162


Chapter 10: So You Want To Tell a Story 167

What Kinds of Story Work Best? 176

Where Do I Find Stories to Tell? 179

Bonus: Made in Dagenham 181

Summary 181

Chapter 11: A Good Story Well Told 183

Castles in the Air 195

Bonus: The Simple Shapes of Stories 197

Summary 197

Chapter 12: On Your Feet 199

Story Coaching 200

Introducing Stories 205

Holding their Attention 206

Making Sure You Can Be Heard 210

Finding the Right Language 212

Bonus: The King’s Speech 214

Summary 214


Chapter 13: Time and Narrative 219

Learning from the Past: The Told Story 222

Standing in the Present: The Unfolding Story 232

Shaping the Future: The Imagined Story 236

Bonus: The Insider 241

Summary 242

Chapter 14: Storytelling for a Change 245

Don’t Think of an Elephant 246

Empires of the Mind 251

Bonus: The Foresters 261

Summary 262

Chapter 15: Life in the Fast Lane 265

Modern, Post-modern, and Hypermodern 266

The Medium and the Message 270

Storytelling in a Global Village 272

Signs of the Times 275

Bonus: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room 282

Summary 283


Chapter 16: Heart and Soul 287

Missing the Boat 289

Ambit and Ambition 292

Two Countries 296

Narrative Wreckage 299

Welcome to Wonderland 301

Bonus: Beasts of the Southern Wild 304

Summary 304

Appendix: Additional Resources 307

Index 311