Communication Skills, Public Speaking, Storytelling

Why Is Storytelling So Powerful? Business Leaders Take Note

Table of Contents

Do any of these issues sound familiar?

  • Declining productivity
  • Lack of growth
  • Increase in human error

All of these are by-products of crisis or change scenarios, such as working during a global pandemic for example. They can also all be resolved through effective leadership communication.

Today, we’re going to answer the question, why is storytelling so powerful and why you should be prioritising storytelling when developing your leadership communication skills.

Why is storytelling so powerful for leadership communication?

1. Storytelling bands people together

So, why is storytelling so powerful? Think about every major religion and every major national identity; they’re formed and developed around a collection of stories that have inspired a collective consciousness. There are scriptures, parables and chants that tell stories and, through those stories, teach lessons and unite people behind a common belief. Is there a more effective way on earth to band people together than storytelling?

In a corporate setting, there are opportunities to use stories in a similar way. Stories about the founder, stories about clients, stories about the staff. Stories that connect an organisation’s vision and mission are extremely powerful at helping every single employee to understand the role they play in achieving those goals.

2. Storytelling connects the data to the experience

Throughout this pandemic, we have been bombarded with scientific information and advice. The media has delivered us statistics and data, like how many active cases there are, what sort of people are most at risk, and the rare health risks associated with vaccinations. For many people, the prevailing thought is, “Ok but what does that mean?”

Data and information can only do so much. It’s up to us to interpret that data into opinions and beliefs that prompt actions and behaviour.

Stories, on the other hand, provide material that fuels what we call “the experience gap.” They connect the data to people’s experiences, which then becomes a much more motivating force. This is one reason why storytelling is so powerful in sales. Consider what we’ve been advised during this pandemic: to maintain a metre and a half distance, wear a mask, use hand sanitiser. These are instructions based on scientific data. This leaves room for “it doesn’t apply to me” and “I don’t want to do it because I’m being told to do it” thinking.

By contrast, if we tell the story of how a particular patient contracted the virus by going about their daily life, doing the things we all do from time to time, it creates a relatability to how the spreading events occur. We recall the story when we’re in a similar situation and we act based on what we learned through the story. The story-based approach is far more effective in shifting thoughts, feelings and behaviour to achieve the desired outcome—in the case of the pandemic, slowing the spread.

3. Storytelling makes sense of the confusing and the uncertain

But why is storytelling so powerful right now for business leaders? In our lifetimes, there’s never been a more uncertain time on a global scale. We’re working in an environment where it’s hard to comprehend, it’s hard to imagine what the immediate future is going to be like, let alone the medium-term or the long-term future. And this creates distress.

What is morale like within your teams at the moment? I’d hazard a guess it’s not at its best. Business leaders can improve morale through storytelling that helps employees to make sense of uncertain times. This is an important point to note for anyone leading teams through change, which in some sense we all are right now as we experience life during a pandemic.

4. Storytelling is understood by all

Ultimately, the reason why storytelling is so powerful as a communication tool is that it’s understood by all. From a two-year-old child to my 17-year-old son, to Susan in Accounts, Derek in the warehouse and everybody’s grandma, stories are a tried and trusted communication mechanism that everyone understands regardless of age, gender, experience, or cultural background.

Stories can take what would otherwise be abstract concepts that we might be able to understand conceptually and feeds them into the four intelligences – analytical, emotional, somatic and field intelligence – which guide our decision making and generate action.

These are only four reasons why storytelling is so powerful for business leaders. If you’d like to learn more and understand how to use storytelling in business, join our online storytelling course.

The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.


How can I improve my storytelling ability?

Consider investing in some business storytelling training where you’ll learn how to harness the power of your voice, body language and own personal experiences to tell stories that are memorable, meaningful and inspire action.

How do leaders use storytelling influence?

All great leaders use storytelling to influence others and spread their message. Consider religious leaders, leaders of a movement, and visionary business leaders. If you research famous motivational speeches, like the I have a dream speech, or motivational commencement addresses, like Bill Gates’ at Harvard in 2007, you can observe how storytelling is used to great effect to convey a poignant message.

Why is leadership storytelling so powerful?

Stories told by leaders get the attention of their listeners—especially personal stories. They make leaders more relatable to their audience, they inspire trust and confidence, and they can be used as a rallying cry for united action.

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