These days, I find myself observing and mentally noting with fervour the magical elements that conspire to empower great leaders. There is a universality about great leadership that makes it easy for those to assume that one either has it or one doesn’t. However, in this growth mindset culture, we know that to be a fallacy. Leadership is a cultivated skill not a role we’re simply born into.
Sure, it helps to be competent at the work you do because competence surely goes a long distance in helping to create trust. But, I’d argue that true leadership goes beyond being the best at your job. Leadership is about enabling those around you to be their best, do their best work, and doing so in a way that helps them to feel autonomous, valued, and empowered. From what I’ve seen, read, listened to, and from the people with whom I’ve personally spoken on the KindSight 101 Podcast (and within my own life), leadership is rooted in storytelling. A solid story can do more to convince people to believe you, join your ranks, or sell you ideas than any coercive, strategic approaches can. Show me a good storyteller and I’ll show you a good leader.
So, how to tell a good story? I recently read the book To Sell is Human by the amazing Dan Pink (Seriously, if you haven’t heard him on a podcast, read or listened to one of his books/speeches, you’re missing out! He’s a guru in motivation and sales…and he’s funny, too!). He introduced me to Emma Coat’s Pixar Pitch framework, which uses the Hero’s Journey to formulate your ideas/story/pitch into a palatable pitch. You want to pique curiosity, solve someone’s problem, create value, and be specific enough that someone can see themselves benefitting from the solution you offer.
Here’s how it works:
- Set the tone for the way things are currently: Who is in the story, where do they live, what is the context? – Once upon a time…
- Talk about the routine of life-the status quo- Every day…
- Create tension and a disruption from the status quo- One day…
- What are the consequences of that event or disruption? – Because of that…
- What are the further consequences? – Because of that…
- Arrive at the conclusion, where things have returned to stasis, but things are better than they were- Until finally…
Take the Finding Nemo Plot, for instance:
- Once upon a time there was a fish named Marlin who lost his wife and was protective of his forgetful son, Nemo.
- Every day, Nemo would be warned by his Dad not to venture beyond the dangers of their coral reef.
- One day, Nemo ignores the warnings and swims beyond the cozy comforts of his home, to the open ocean.
- Because of that, he winds up being captured and winds up in a fish tank in someone’s home.
- Because of that, Marlin begins a tireless journey to find his son with the help of a few kind creatures at his side.
- Until finally, Marlin and Nemo reunite and understand that love is dependent on a sense of trust.
Here’s the Small Act Big Impact story in six sentences:
- Once upon a time, there was an education crisis in our schools and communities across North America and the World-at-large.
- Everyday, more than 25% of our students were mired in hopelessness, stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness, to the point where it made it hard for them to learn, connect with one another, and feel deep and authentic happiness and life satisfaction. This was affecting their learning and well-being, making it hard for them to be their best expressions of themselves.
- One day, neuroscientists discovered that happiness and fulfilment could be derived from generosity and kindness on a chemical level in the brain. We learned we could learn to develop kindness habits that would release continuous happiness hormones not only to those demonstrating generosity and receiving kindness, but to even those who witnessed it.
- Because of that, Small Act Big Impact developed a 21-Day Kindness Challenge to encourage students, teachers, parents, businesses, communities, and educational leaders to develop meaningful habits of kindness that would ripple out into the community, inspiring people to adopt the habits, themselves.
- Because of that, students, teachers, and leaders began feeling happier and more hopeful, bringing levels of hopelessness, stress, anxiety, and depression down.
- Until finally, everyone knew that the path to living happy lives resides in our ability to help one another through deep and intentional kindness.
How will storytelling help you to become the leader you want to be?