This week I’ve been at the Middle East Leadership Communication Conference in Abu Dhabi. I ran a Storytelling for Leaders workshop and gave a keynote on strategic stories. In the workshop I asked the participants to think of a good leader and share a story that illustrates why you think they’re outstanding.
One participant shared this story.
On a typical hot and clear Abu Dhabi day General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, was driving with his assistant across town.
As they were passing a school the Sheikh noticed a school girl standing by the road all alone and looking lost. He pulled up and got out and asked the school girl if everything was OK. She told him that she was waiting for her father to pick her up.
The Sheikh asked the girl if he could take her home but she refused telling him that her father said she must not speak with strangers.
The Sheikh’s assistant then said to the school girl that this is no stranger but the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The school girl said she knew that but her father said never go with strangers.
So the Crown Prince sat down on the curb with the school girl and waited for her father to pick her up.
When the father turned up the Crown Prince calmly and respectfully reminded the school girl’s father that it was important to pick up his daughter on time.
Here is a photo snapped by a teacher that day.
There are certain stories we are naturally drawn to because we’ve learned over the millennia that if we don’t take notice bad things could happen to us. This story touches on two of the top three high impact story topics.
Death: whenever we hear a story about someone’s untimely death or near death experience we can’t help to notice because we have an ingrained desire to avoid death. It’s why we have so many CSI and murder mystery shows on TV.
Children: in particular we care about the safety of children. We care about the continuation of our species. It’s a strong force that every parent knows well. Just remember what happens when the news reports a child in danger. It goes to the top of the news cycle. The school girl in Abu Dhabi fits into this category.
Power: people with power can affect our lives so we carefully watch their behaviours to help us judge their character. This is why in organisations there are so many stories told about the leaders. And clearly the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi is powerful so this story resonates, especially if you are a citizen of United Arab Emirates.
About Shawn Callahan
Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on: