The Power of Storytelling for Leaders: The Why & the How

Your Challenge
  • Never harnessed the power of storytelling as a part of the modern-day communication strategy
  • Unsure about what storytelling entails
  • Heard someone telling a powerful story and delivering winning presentations but not sure, what does it take to communicate a story that influences
Your Learning 

What are stories? Where do they come from? Why do leaders need stories and be strong storytellers? 

Authentic stories are simply reflections or even realities of life. Everyone has a story- some real and some not so real. However, there are few things common in them. They have something to learn from. They evoke emotions through psychological connections through direct experiences or relatedness. Stories talk to us.

Storytelling provides an opportunity for leaders to present their authentic self to others. This authentic self can further branch out to different purposes that leaders serve- presenting an idea, persuading and influencing others and coaching others, and even making sense out of complex information. That's the magic of storytelling.

Same Old Storytelling? Not Really.

As much as it may seem that storytelling could be a child's play and you could really ramble out a story without using any art and science behind it then, my dear leader - you are mistaken.

Stories from the grandparents and parents were beautiful and fascinating and often helped us sleep. The storytelling that we are talking about here needs an opposite effect - waking others up to a cause or understanding. This simply means that storytelling uses different techniques in the context of leadership.

The Art and Science of Storytelling for Leaders

In the context of leadership, every story needs to have the following foundations to create an effective psychological anchor for its audience:

1.  Highlight the authentic and unique idea or cause that resonates with the audience: What's the unique idea or cause that your audience should be concerned about? How is it different from other ideas and causes out there already? Does it relate to or address the needs or wants of the audience? Focus on the uniqueness. Find the Unique Selling Point (USP).  Do not try to make things sensational and pretty for no reason. Let it be authentic.

2. One Focus ONLY: If the focus of the story is either ambiguous or provides multiple ideas to the audience, guess what's going to happen? A split focus means little or no attention. Can you get a buy-in? Try next time. Too much information has little power.

3. Context is everything: Without a context, an audience is like a lost employee in a meeting who is meaninglessly being bombarded with information. Provide the bigger picture, the WHY to the audience. That is the most important piece to anchor their attention and engagement. Context matters!

4. Bring the characters alive: Be it anyone's story, there is always a hero, a challenge, some struggle and actions, success or failure and a lesson to learn. A hero or a character could be a person or even a department or an organization. Allow the audience to enter the world of your story in their own contexts as you tell the story to them. Define the characters and their personalities. Explain the struggles and actions and how it feels to be there. Open the box of successes and failures that the characters go through. Finally, come to the lesson(s) learned and connections to the WHY of your story- the context. Challenge people's thinking and make the story worth an 'aha' for the audience. 

Tools for powerful storytelling: 
  • The best and #1 tool is your own experience or story. However, do not keep yourself as the focus or hero of every story. Overdoing the act of self-hero story can cheese audience off. Use it wisely.
  • Use metaphors, analogies, self-effacing humor and even some props to make a story more interesting.
  • Ask questions to the audience in between. Keep them engaged.
  • Use the power of effective and relational communication through the voice, the tone, the pitch, and the words. Do not forget the body language. Use it well with your movements and expressions. 
In a few final words, storytelling involves more than just a story.  Storytelling brings leadership to life. Without the ability to tell a powerful story, a leader may fall short of the power to influence.

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Sahil Sharma
Talent, Learning & Leadership Development Professional | Certified Leadership Coach

For consultation and services, contact us at

Our Recommendation

Storytelling: a Guide on How to Tell a Story with Storytelling Techniques and Storytelling Secrets by James Moore

Before humans learned how to write down their thoughts the only way to maintain historically accurate accounts of what happened was to tell stories. It was a skilled art, to become a first-class storyteller, and now you can learn the secrets of this ability with Storytelling: A Guide on How to Tell a Story, With Storytelling Techniques and Storytelling Secrets, which includes chapters on:

  • Grabbing Attention
  • Stories with Lessons
  • The Story of All Stories
  • Create Emotions in Writing and in Speech
  • Exercises
  • Continuous Improvement
  • And Much more!