Leaders can trigger new stories

Posted by  Mark Schenk —November 13, 2013
Filed in Leadership Posts

People watch the behaviour of leaders intensely, like they are on stage with a spotlight on them. This concentrated attention on leader behaviour can be used to trigger new stories and to communicate meaning. Often simple actions can be much more powerful than the words leaders use, as illustrated on the example below:

In 2007 I was in the Hunter Valley to give a presentation on collaboration to the leadership conference of one of our clients in the primary industries sector. After my presentation, the CEO introduced the company’s new sustainability policy. It was very comprehensive and profoundly committed the company to sustainable practices.The CEO read out the statement from behind the lectern. When he finished he looked at the audience and said:“I believe this is really important.” He then walked across to the screen and said, “I don’t want to work in a place that doesn’t do this, and quite frankly, I don’t think any of you do either.” As he said this he used the back of his hand to hit the screen, causing it to shake wildly.

At the dinner that evening I asked several people what they remembered about the sustainability statement. The consistent reply was, “I don’t remember what the policy statement said, but I know the CEO is really serious about it. Did you see the way he walked over and hit the screen.”

The downside of this is that when leaders behave poorly or in ways that undermine strategy or values, the stories spread just as effectively.

Mark Schenk About  Mark Schenk

Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on:

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