Leadership by storytelling is co-creation of meaning2015-03-31
Leadership is less about The ‘Story’ and more about the ‘story-telling’
How does one do leadership by storytelling if there is no story to tell? This question was put to me a good many years ago at the end of a presentation on management of meaning. I remember feeling slightly sorry for this guy. He wanted to be the inspiring leader but clearly couldn’t see any immediate source of inspiration, a mission or content of the business that he could turn into the topic of his talks.
At the time of the experience related above, the answer to the problem was a no-brainer. To create the story, even out of what seemed to be nothing, was considered to be the core task of the leader.
In many large and fragmented organizations, it is becoming increasingly difficult for management to identify or indeed construct ONE story that would ‘cover’ what the company is about. This is especially true if the hope is to find a story to last for any sensible period of time for it to actually touch a critical number of minds. Instead, the half-life of stories or visions – about anything – is continuing to shrink rapidly.
Frenetic and networked life means frenetic consumption of meaning, of stories, visions, symbols and images. In fact, it is about more than consumption. What’s more, consumption is not the thing. It is about being present at the moments of the telling itself. Being in the loop might have meant being among the first to receive the strategy or concept produced by the management. Today it means being present at the modern ‘campfires’ in the networks and forums where things are discussed and opinions blurted out. This is where meaning and leadership gets co-created and shared. And lived.