On Leadership, Communication and Learning From the Arts

For anyone to be a successful leader, they will have to master the art of communication. This is because leaders are judged by their communication skills, whether they know this or not.

And one of the most notable ways that leaders are judged in their communication efforts is by their ability to effectively speak before audiences or crowds.

Speaking Tips for Leaders

Here are some speaking tips from 3 unusual sources that will help in ,making great speeches:

  • A Music Composer
  • A Painter
  • And a Chef

So what does writing and delivering speeches have in common with other art forms like composing music, painting and cooking food?

A lot!

Working With Emotions

Speakers, like other artists, are working with the emotions of their audience. Most good speakers take their audience on an emotional journey, ending with a strong Final Emotion that propels their audience to act on the message of their speech.

In this regard, speakers are remarkably similar to other artists and can glean valuable tips on delivering memorable speeches by studying artists who have achieved greatness in their fields.

On Music, Painting, and Cooking

Here are 3 insightful learning’s for speakers from the fields of music, painting and cooking.

1) Planning the Emotional Journey : Music by Ennio Morricone

Music by Ennio MorriconeEnnio Morricone, a prolific composer of movie scores, constantly uses his music to transform the emotional state of his audience. His ability to take his listeners on an emotional journey, from emotion A to emotion B, via his music is truly remarkable.

For example, in his composition entitled “The Ecstasy of Gold,” Morricone takes his audience up an emotional cliff in a very deliberate manner, leaving them with strong emotions of victory and achievement.

The emotional climb is in phases with bursts of emotional music followed by periods of ‘rest’, as if Morricone knows that the emotional transformation he is trying to achieve is too “steep” for his audience.

The emotional journey makes us part of a movement born out of necessity, which runs into phases of “confusion” where the purpose is lost before a final re-commitment to the mission and the eventual victory.

The final “triumph” leaves you with a sense of victory, so charged with energy and you feel like walking out to the street and beating someone up.

The Ecstasy of Gold and other music compositions by Morricone extol the need for a speaker to plan the emotional journey of their audience. They show the power of ending speeches at emotional peaks that are aligned with the purpose of the speech, providing the audience the emotional energy needed to make the big decisions.

Morricone’s use of emotional high’s and low’s to make the journey interesting as well as providing the audience with periods of ‘emotional rest’ are excellent lessons for any speaker.

2) Understanding Transitions : The Paintings by M.C. Escher

Optical IllusionM.C. Escher, a Dutch artist who lived from 1898 to 1972, is most remembered for making physically impossible concepts, like water flowing uphill, look possible. The transitions in his paintings are so smooth that they do not obstruct flow, of sight and emotions, even when the content defies logic.

This allows the eye to follow the painting, from one end to the other, to unnatural places without questioning the validity about what is presented.

In one famous painting called Metamorphose, Escher starts from an initial pattern, transitions to various figures and shapes and then to an elaborate city near the sea before returning to the initial pattern.

The transitions in this long rectangular painting, that flows from left to right, are so smooth that the eye does not stop to question the flow. As square shape patterns turn to lizard shapes and birds turn into cities, the painting always maintains its flow.

The paintings by Escher are a case study for speakers learning to manage transitions. They highlight that when emotional flow in maintained in speeches, the audience goes wherever the speech takes them emotionally, even if logical inconsistencies exist.

The audience will not seek to understand the logic of the speech but soak the message as they go on the emotional journey that has been planned by the speaker. Speakers should, as Escher does in Metamorphose, manage difficult transitions slowly to remove abruptness while enabling easier transitions more quickly.

3) Using emotional triggers : Food by Chef Grant Achatz

Chef Grant AchatzChef Grant Achatz owns an avant-garde restaurant in Chicago called Alinea. This unique restaurant serves just one menu, a seasonal 18 to 23 course meal, that, on average, takes three hours to go through.

The dining experience at Alinea is as much about food as it is about emotion. In particular, Chef Grant uses emotional triggers to enhance the dining experience of his patrons.

For example, as a child he used to rake the leaves that were falling off the oak trees, jump in them a couple of times and then light that pile on fire. The smell of smoldering oak leaves transports him back to being eight years old and growing up in Michigan. He wanted to trigger this nostalgic emotion in his customers.

Thus he created a dish with pheasant and apple cider that are tempura-fried and then impaled, on a bamboo skewer, with oak twigs that have leaves attached. The twig pierces through the pheasant, through a gelee of apple cider.

Only the very end gets tempura-fried, and then right before it goes out to the dining room, he lights the leaves on fire. He has had patrons cry when they smell the burning oak leaves because it literally transports them back to a place or a time that they have fond memories of.

Using Emotional Triggers

This use of emotional triggers to connect with and emotionally charge an audience is a master lesson for a speaker. Speakers, even when they do not have strong emotional content, can use their words, phrases, anecdotes and stories that take the audience to a place and time that arouses strong emotions.

These emotional triggers evoke deep emotions in the audience and enables the speaker to form a strong connection with them. This typically leads to the speakers message being remembered long after the speech is over.


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Vikas Jhingran

Dr. Vikas Jhingran is an Author, Speaker and Engineer at Shell Oil
He talks about the role of Emotions in Verbal Communications
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Wake Up! Leaders are Dreamers

Leaders are Dreamers

Risky Dreams 

“The limitations you are willing to accept determine the boundaries of your existence.” ~ Erwin McManus, Wide Awake

As I reflect on what I learned a few years ago in Erwins’ book Wide Awake, I am challenged, prodded and provoked to live and think differently.

I wonder this:

  • “Am I living too safely?”
  • “Am I leading too plainly?”
  • “Am I willing to dream again—bigger, better, bolder?”

Remember: Great leaders are born out of great dreams.

I Have a Dream

Some of those “great dreams” emerge from a creative idea. Jeff Bezos, in 1992, was a SVP for the New York hedge fund D.E. Shaw when he dreamt of building a company that would sell books on the Internet. Ever heard of Amazon?

Others are stirred deeply by injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman dreamed of freedom, battling slavery and racial oppression. It cost MLK his life.

Some dreams do that.

MADD as Hell

Not infrequently dreams are birthed in the midst of great tragedies. On May 3, 1980, Candy Lightner’s 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver in Fair Oaks, California.

Angered by the relatively light sentence the driver received for his recklessness, she launched Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) which raises awareness of the damage wrought when driving under the influence of alcohol.

McManus says “a dream needs a person to bring it to life.”

An isolated dream will only fester in the heart of one person and eventually die; and sometimes it takes the dreamer with it.


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Living the Dream

Dying dreams are as contagious as living ones. How many of us have buried dreams only to realize that we have placed a bit of ourselves in the ground? A dream must be shared, embodied and empowered for it to be life-giving.

Dreams are intensely communal.

McManus provocatively says:

How long you live does not reflect how well you live. The real question is, were you alive when you died?

I love that question! And I fear it.

  • What if my dream fails?
  • What if no one else is inspired by my burning desire to live the dream?
  • What if my dream is just an illusion, a momentary fit of grandiosity and self-indulgence?

Becoming a Dreamer

We need to focus our energy and rekindle the fires

McManus notes the word focus comes from the Latin word for “hearth” or “fireplace” and thus means “the burning center.” What is the burning center of my life? To find it I must carve away distractions, cut off the peripheral could-do for the more central must-do. But the “do” must be centered in the “be” – what I am becoming.

Before I have a dream am I becoming a dreamer?

That takes some time and effort. Focus seems like a luxury only a well-subsidized artist can afford—someone who’s paid to paint one portrait, not run around frantically splashing paint on every blank canvas, hoping for a quick a sale.

Can we make the changes needed to be real dreamers? Are we willing to make a focused effort?

Build the Core with Focus

McManus tells the story of therapy he received for a back injury – to work on his stomach. It seemed odd but he soon understood that “core training” was key to a healthy back. POW’s learned to do it so they’d remain strong enough for a potential escape, but not look so strong in the arms that they’d pose a threat.

We need to work on our “core” – core beliefs, practices and convictions; core mission, vision and strategy. FOCUS! But it is not easy or glamorous, so I settle for superficial solutions and neglect the core.

“I think a lot of us choose the opposite path,” McManus chides. “We do the tanning booth and the Botox and the collagen so we can look healthy on the outside, but we are really weak at the center.”

Admittedly, I am weaker at the center than I’d care to admit. And, as a result, my team is not as strong. Because core training is best when we do it together, like Navy Seals prepping for the mission of their lives.

So What’s a Leader to Do?

There are no quick steps. But here are some routines that will help leaders dream with focus and persistence.

1)     Shore up Relationships at Home (or friends)

My wife and daughter come first (my son’s out of the house now). Centered relationships will let you dream freely, knowing you are caring for the fires at home before you try to save the world.

2)     Spend Some Money

Dreaming has a cost. I suggest 1-2 conferences or gatherings and books. I am in the process of ordering about 30-40 leadership resources for the coming months. This is a mix of biography, provocative thinkers, life shapers and students of culture, and personal growth materials. I need to hear other voices as I recalibrate my own.

3)     Do a Dreamers Inventory

What inspired you before? What are the roadblocks now? What gets you up in the morning and keeps you up at night? What can you do that others cannot do? What must be done? I live in these questions.

4)     Get Around Other Dreamers

Hanging out with I’m-building-the-dream-right-now-and-it-is-a-wild-ride kinds of people will light your fire and keep it burning. You know the type – upstart business leaders, creative teachers, provocative activists, church planters, artists without boundaries. (ESPECIALLY if they are not in your field!!!). I am doing it this week.

5)     Pull the Trigger

At some point you simply must act. I was recalling in my journal all the things I started in the last few years, some large, some small. Many “failed” or fizzled, or took an unexpected turn. Yes, I was frustrated, angry, disappointed, lost momentum, and almost threw in the towel. Actually, I did– but I picked up some new towels. I am not where I want to be – but I am moving!

 The real question is, “Were you alive when you died?”


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Dr. Bill Donahue
Dr. Bill Donahue is President of LeaderSync Group, Inc

Bill is a professor at TIU and a Leadership Speaker and Consultant
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Purposeful Leadership: Inviting Others into the Story

Share Your Story

Your purpose is encoded deep within you.

And all efforts to grow must serve this purpose in order to be a truly effective leader.

The Simplicity of Purpose

Purpose finds life in the present. And it flows through your presence to others. This is important to understand because what lies in our purpose is the secret to our true influence. This concept can be helpful when leading teams, but only if it is refined and ready to radiate in a practical strategy.

The best strategies in business and leading others are those serving a focused and presently applied purpose. They are the ones that have been honed and made simple.

I cannot remember where I heard this quote, but I liked it:

Simple is a Strategy.

A Simple Story

Donnie values the personal engagement and camaraderie associated in playing golf with others. So one day we, we mixed business with pleasure and played golf while we discussed business strategies. We were working on the first of three strategies of balanced action to support his one goal of understanding and perfecting his purpose as a leader.

While we were approaching the 9th hole, I shared an observation with him; “Donnie, I bet when playing golf with someone less experienced, you cannot help but to coach with a few helpful tips.”

He responded, “Funny you should say that.”

Donny explained that just prior to our session, Donnie and his boss Steve had recently played golf with a client; a man who seemed a bit self-conscious of his quality of play.

In the days that followed, Steve recounted Donnie’s awareness with what was unfolding with this client, and how Donnie stopped, placed attention on the man, shared a few tips from focused intention, moved back, and watched as the client relaxed into the flow of the collective game.

Donnie was exercising care for his client and it really seemed to work to help him relax and better enjoy their time together. He showed that in the balance of attention and intention, others feel care in focused interaction. People tend to like the personal attention and helpfulness of others when it is packaged and presented in the right way, and at the right time.

His attentive care was an act of service with purpose.

Steve later encouraged Donnie after the round of golf  saying, “This is simply what you need to do with those you lead. This is how you influence people.”

As leaders, our impact in this world demands focused intention and present attentionLike Donnie, there is something about you as a leader that you simply cannot help but do.

Balance and Impact

 What is that for you?

Your answer is an indicator of your encoded purpose.

  • Focused intention is written in your inward purpose.
  • Present attention is about focus outwardly.
  • The flow is from the internal to the external.

It is in this order that we balance intention and attention toward impact.

This is where we perfect purpose in each interaction.

Purposeful impact comes into view only in the cooperative balance of attention and intention.

In this whirling 21st Century, there is entirely too much on which to focus our energy. The sustainability of leadership energy requires the simplicity of clarity and the balance of intention and attention.

The merger of simplicity and balance is about presence and clarity.

What keeps you from being fully present in the day-to-day of leadership?

The view is so much clearer at the heights of a specifically spoken purpose. So be clear when you speak your purpose.

See the Unfolding; Show it to Us

Personal growth can at times feel like a lonesome journey.

It is important to embrace growth as a journey, and as an unfolding process that (thankfully) never ends. It is only in such acceptance where we may begin to float in the flow that is simplicity and balance.

“The 21st Century leader is modeling for us a new confidence; a presence that is both selfless and powerful. Focusing [your] leadership in the present … ensures that we put our attention to the right priorities; thus building fulfillment in our present work and assuring the rewards of tomorrow.”Wading the Stream of Awareness

Opening Up

There comes a time for each of us where we are given the opportunity to unlearn. Many turn down this contemplative occasion because of presuppositions, our unwillingness to let go, and our prideful selfishness.

Courageously entering introspection opens you to the process of tearing down and building up that is necessary for your transformation.

You are transformed as you learn anew and find purposeful form for sharing.

As leaders, we are transformed into our purpose−it is the source for sustainable impact in this world, this arduous journey. Purpose must draw you out of the fray−while you paradoxically remain in the fray−in order for you to become the individual you were intended to be.

Being Free to Live

Those who follow you as a leader need you to be free in your story as you lead them in a larger, unfolding experience. Thanks to your leadership, we are inspired by our own purpose in an unfolding narrative.

We are not led from a larger story as much as we are led to the story.

In the larger story, what is it of value that you need to facilitate? How might you begin to do this? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Jeff Brunson
Jeff Brunson is Owner of BasicApproach (Building Confident Leaders)
He passion is Building Confident Leaders
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Leaders: 4 Ways to Improve Your Ability to Think and Learn

Think and Learn

Successful leaders need to think and learn on a consistent basis. It’s been proven that stress reduces our ability to learn.

Fight or Flight

Our response to stress is born from the “Fight or Flight” response that is critical in danger.  In these types of situations like a car accident, we need the rise in heart rate, blood pressure, and sugar in our system to boost our energy.

This short-time reaction to a short-term situation is not only beneficial, but it is required for survival.

Long-term exposure to the “Fight or Flight” response causes physiological changes that reduce our ability to learn.

The Franklin Institute reported that Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford University neuroscientist, showed that “sustained stress can damage the hippocampus, the part of the limbic brain which is central to learning and memory.”

The institute goes on to say this about chronic stress:

“Chronic over-secretion of stress hormones adversely affects brain function, especially memory. Too much cortisol can prevent the brain from laying down a new memory, or from accessing already existing memories.”

Good News! It’s reversible

Arline Bronzaft, PhD, an expert on the stress of noise pollution, conducted a study in the 1970’s in a New York school.  Some of the classrooms faced a loud subway rail and others were quiet.

Her study documented that by sixth grade, the children in the noisy rooms were a year behind those in the quiet rooms in reading skills.

But good news was right around the corner. This noise-induced difference in reading skills was reversed after acoustical tiles were installed that reduced the noise of the subway trains.

However good remedial methods are in reversing negative efforts on learning in humans, the great news is that it is all preventable.

Great News! It’s preventable

Here are four ways to improve your ability to think and learn by preventing stress

Positive Thoughts

Our thoughts can reduce stress in our lives just as sure as they cause stress in our lives.

Napoleon Hill author of the best-selling book Think and Grow Rich said:

We are what we are, because of the vibrations of thought which we pick up and register, through the stimuli of our daily environment. Resolve to throw off the influences of any unfortunate environment, and to build your own life to order.”

Here are some environmental influences that can occur each day, and ideas on how to reduce their stressful impact on your life:

Demands on your time become more than you have time to deliver. -Recognize what is important-Organize what is due-Prioritize when it will be done
New situations arise -Learn  from the facts available-Seek guidance from others’ past success-Do the best you can
You doubt your own abilities -Remember your past success-Focus on common experiences-Tell yourself you can

Soothing Rhythms

Studies show that brainwaves resonate in time with the rhythmic stimulation. Slow beats encourage the slow brainwaves that are associated with meditative states.

The first experience a newborn has in the hospital is stress: bright lights, poking, prodding, cold air and using its lungs for the first time.  Of course babies cry, I would to.  All birth room doctors and nurses know by training what every mother knows by instinct: the baby will be instantly soothed by placing it on the mother’s chest so the familiar rhythm of her heartbeat can be felt and heard.

There is a large industry for swings and bouncers for children as they move into the toddler ages.  Why do they sell so many? Because the soothing rhythm of moving back and forth calms the stressed toddler.

Music has the same effect on stress.  California State University music therapy professor Ron Borczon said, “The most powerful aspect of music is rhythm…Rhythm will help you get more excited when sped up; when slowed down, it helps the body calm down.”

According to Elizabeth Scott, M.S., wellness coach, author and health educator, “The change in brain wave activity levels that music can bring can also enable the brain to shift speeds more easily on its own as needed, which means that music can bring lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you have stopped listening.”

Tip for Success:

Invest in music, sound machines, or, if you can afford it, move to the beach to hear ocean waves to stimulate your brain with soothing rhythms that will help prevent stress.

Regular Exercise

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re downright out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.”

Exercise fills your brain with endorphins.  This natural chemical produces what is commonly known as a “runner’s high,” which brings a positive and energized outlook on life.

While you exercise you take your mind of the day’s stress as you concentrate on the weights you are lifting, or the tennis ball you are hitting, or the laps you are swimming.  You will return to your stress causing issues with a calm perspective, able to think through your options.

Tip for Success:

Schedule time each day to get up and move away from your stress.

Inspirational Atmosphere

In John Maxwell’s latest book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, he says this:

“Everyone needs a time and a place to pause and reflect.”

Here’s a quick description of the contents of my inspirational atmosphere – my home office.

The first section contains a collection of many different bible translations, in depth bible studies, and recent translations of ancient historians like Josephus.    This section keeps me grounded on my foundation of leadership.

The second section contains a picture of my wife and me at the very spot where we met.  I also have pictures of my two children at school and in sports.  This section keeps my focus on my number one leadership assignment.

The third section contains pictures of the United States of America’s most important historical leaders, and copies of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Emancipation Proclamation. This reminds me whom and what made America the great country that it is.

The fourth section contains many shelves of leadership books that I have read and continue to re-read.  These are my textbooks in leadership where I perfected my life’s dream.

The last section contains memorabilia from many trips and seminars that reminds me of how very blessed I am to have had these experiences in life.

Tip for Success:

Create a place to pause and reflect that surrounds you with wonderful memories that takes your focus off of you and directs it to what is really important in your life.


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Denis McLaughlin
Denis McLaughlin is President of Leadership GPS, Inc.
He is a Leadership Development Expert, Coach, Teacher, Speaker and Writer
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Personal Leadership: Inspire Your Life, Inspire Your Business

Inspiring Perspective

An epiphany can come from a lot of places: talking with a new person, experiencing a new place or culture, or reading a book seemingly unrelated to your problem.

If you’re really paying attention, you may realize how slyly and timely inspiration enters our lives, usually just when we need it.

Experiences That Change You

For instance, in 1989 I had an accident while water skiing. I was sucked through a dam on the Illinois River.

When you face your mortality, you change as a person.

This was a wake-up call for me, someone who had never really thought about the fact that all our lives are headed towards a final ending point, something we don’t really think about as young adults and teens. It gave me an urgency to accomplish and experience as much as I could.

You and your business face an expiration date; the plans you have for your business or for your life, start them now!

There really isn’t a moment left to waste.

Surround Yourself with Inspiration

Your Places

Take a look around your office, your home, or where you frequently spend your time.

Ask yourself this:

  • What does your office or home look like?
  • Does it spark your imagination?
  • What’s in it that make you want to achieve something of significance?

For me, books have always been a great resource. Any time I need some serious perspective, I randomly choose a book off my shelf, pick it up, and just read whatever it has to say.

It is astonishing how often I gain pertinent wisdom on the subject of whatever issue I’m dealing with.

Fill your office with artwork, books, music, or other physical objects that you can easily grab in an instance of mental blocks and creative fatigue.

Your People

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you must also surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you. Get out of your office, walk down the hall, and begin a conversation with someone who is working on a different part of the business.

They will have a very different perspective from you and bring up questions you never thought to ask yourself.

Sometimes I even call someone who I admire and respect in either a similar or completely opposite field. Spend time learning from those who have already experienced your mistakes and can help you reflect on your current situation.

Your Resources

If you’re really committed to gaining insight, maybe even try a therapist or a counselor. The answer may be waiting patiently before you screaming out like a maniac to get your attention. But if we aren’t listening, it may be because we are unconsciously resisting the answer to the problem.

A third party who is completely removed from the situation can help you reevaluate the problem, teach you to listen to yourself, and challenge you to make a move.

There are No Coincidences

Don’t take the signs for granted. I don’t really believe in random unrelated events in the universe; to me everything is connected. Whether or not you believe this, you shouldn’t fight taking note of things that happen around you, even if they seem to have no relevance to your life.

There is a lesson to be learned in every experience we have.  Find it, and use it.

Relax and Let the Answer Find You

As is the case with most things, when you force something, whether it be a relationship or a business adventure, you may miss out on something else that is going on.

It’s the moments when we relax and take in our surroundings that inspiration will come and the answer will become real.

Stop trying — let it come to you!

Learn to Be Inspired

As your business matures, so should your perspective. Breaking free from what seem to be limitations will be easy if you can:

  • Learn from life experiences.
  • Seek inspiration from what resources you have.
  • Remember that there are no coincidences.
  • Relax and be aware of inspiration around you.

In business, we can get so used to our daily routines, the normal people we interact with, and our surroundings that it’s no wonder we can sometimes feel stuck and uninspired.

Learn that inspiration doesn’t always just happen. You need to put yourself in a position to be inspired. Only then will you be prepared to accept life’s unexpected gifts when they come.


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David Neagle
David Neagle is President of Life is Now, Inc.
He serves as The Million Dollar Income Acceleration Mentor 
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Strategic Story and The Storytelling Leader


Because of my 10-years of involvement with Storytelling, I have had great opportunities to learn more about the engaging concepts of story, how to construct them, and how to deliver them.

I have also shared this passion with my wife who is the Program Administrator at the International Storytelling Center. We all tell stories. We tell stories in our personal lives and we tell them in our professional lives.

In thinking of this, a big question began to stick in my mind.

It was this:

“What if we crafted and told stories more consciously, and skillfully?”

Conscious Application

This question burned in me for an answer. In 2004, I had the opportunity to work with the International Storytelling Center on a project with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA.

We were helping  scientists, engineers, and PR people further the message of JPL with the power of story. I had the privilege to learn directly from the two Storytellers on the project, Syd Lieberman and Doug Lipman.

Since that time, I have more consciously used story and storytelling in various ways in my leadership coaching programs. As what I was learning and more consciously applying began to evolve in my work, I wanted to take it all to another level for the organization.

I began to experiment with story in my work with groups.

What evolved was an approach to strategic planning that I call “Strategic Story.”

Strategic Story

Discover, Design, Deliver

Typically, it seems that strategic planning consists of a gathering where we get down to the business of planning our actions. I believe this to be the wrong way of going about things. I think that this approach is an out-of-balance focus on the “how.”

Strategic Story less about the how and is more about creating balance and order as we flow through the sequence of why, what, and how.

When trusted and followed, the methodology of this flow helps make all strategic effort more effective.

Trusting the Flow

In trusting the flow, we ensure yet another order; that of Clarity to Engagement to Connection.

  • We must first come together in the story we are trying to tell; this is the clarity of the why.

Once discovered we move to the what.

  • We now engage in design as we determine what I call the Strategic Balance; identifying what we must give our attention to in order to know we are telling our story.

Only then should we launch into the how.

  • How we will act strategically−how we will all connect with the unfolding story− is now guided by a clear storyline as we deliver.

The Storytelling Leader

A good story makes a connection, setting the stage for trust and believability. As a storytelling leader, people want to know something about who you are and why they should believe you.

Stephen Denning, renowned in his work on using storytelling in leadership, says organizations benefit especially by using stories to inspire people to action, to share information, knowledge and values, to counteract bad news, to assist them in working together, and to lead them into the future.

Knowing the Why

It is not enough for people to understand what you want them to do; they need to be shown why. A good story can make that point real for them. People need to be led to the ‘belief space.’

This is where they connect with actions that answer this question:

“What does it look like for me to do something today to move closer to the goals?”

Storytelling is not a difficult topic to understand because we all tell stories. As a leader, I want you to be more conscious of why you should tell and when to tell. To do that, I offer three basic guides for using story as a leader:

3 Steps for Using Story as a Leader

The Story is told for another.

  •  It is not told for you. It is told for the hearer. When we make things about us—“Look at me, I’m great”—we miss the point. The spirit of a story first makes itself known to us by its small, quiet way of speaking and saying, “Tell me.” Simply trust this spirit and tell.

The Story is told in search of a truth.

  • There is something in the story for the hearer to glean. At this point, it is not necessary that you, as the teller, know what needs to be gleaned. For some reason, you know the particular story has been impressed upon you and may have some meaning for your hearer.

The Story is told because you care for the hearer.

  • Don’t fail to realize that your trust to tell the story is wrapped in the fact that you care. The spirit of story will not let you be. Storyteller Gayle Ross said to me, “Once you are telling your stories, other stories you didn’t intend to tell begin to surface. And you know you have to tell them too.”

Painting the Perfect Picture

Your stories tell people who you really are, what you really care about, and why you care. The why is felt in their own, unique interpretation of the story.

You tell it not to paint from your palette, but from theirs.

In telling your story, the story impacts you. Engaging us in a collective story, you allow us to find purpose in the work we do. This is a level of connection desired by each one of us.

Go and tell.


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Jeff Brunson
Jeff Brunson is Owner of BasicApproach (Building Confident Leaders)
He passion is Building Confident Leaders
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Blog | Book | Skype: jeff.brunson3 

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Leader Failures: The Art of Falling on Your Butt

Leader Falling Down

Not all leaders have a perfect path from inception to glory.  There are books, blogs, countless keynotes and movies filled with money-making stories of leaders overcoming failure. 

If a leader learns from mistakes made, then leadership skills can evolve, grow, and flourish.

Waiting My Turn

Like many others at my current company where I have spent the last 20 years, my role as a formal leader has increasingly been reduced. As the economy fails to recover and Baby Boomers can’t afford to retire, the heaviness at the top grows continually larger resulting in crowding in the upper layers.

Talented potential leaders are stuck below the next rung on the ladder and competition at the top breeds a cut throat “survival of the fittest” culture.

If you work for a large corporation, have you noticed this same trend?

In the “balanced world,” these great leaders would be successfully managing big teams and growing their people and the corporate revenue.

But in the real world, those talented leaders, if lucky, are put into individual contributor jobs, trying to make as much positive impact as possible in the shadows of some great and some not so great leaders who are permanently cemented in their positions.

Many leave to pursue better opportunities. If they remain, small mistakes mean big tumbles. I have made my share of skid marks, leader lessons, and recovery still-pending…

Finding Yourself On Your Butt

On Your Butt

After falling on my butt as a leader multiple times, it was extremely ironic when the analogy of falling on my butt became literal.

As a Certified Career Development Instructor, I hadn’t taught a class in over a year. I felt as an instructor, I needed to have a positive career story for my students to be inspired.

Previously, the story of being non-technical in a technical company and how I worked my way up from a temporary administrative assistant to a director of a high performing team was the motivation behind teaching.

Getting others to rise to their potential and love what they do fed my desire to teach and to grow others. My struggle to get my leader ability back on track these last few years didn’t seem like a story worth sharing. When an instructor had to cancel, I hesitantly agreed to cover.

I had taught the class many times so I wasn’t concerned on the delivery; I was concerned with my credibility.

Falling on My Butt

I was lucky that the class was extremely energetic and engaged. 30 minutes into the session, I was walking backwards (never a good idea… and in wedges none the less…) in the front of the room and tripped over a chair, landing flat on my back.

As the students gasped and I heard “are you okay?

I lay on the floor looking up at the ceiling thinking “I just fell on my butt… Wow fitting; how awesome!”

I laid there for a minute pondering my next move….

Option A:

Jump up, tell my students to play hooky the rest of the day and run out of the room?


Option B:

Do the same thing I had been doing for the last few years with my leadership stumbles:  Get up, brush myself off and do my best to deliver the most awesome class ever.

I decided on the latter.

The Power of Focusing on Solutions

I do have to admit that due to my less-than-graceful stunt, the class was focused on my every move. More so for my next potential face plant than the compelling delivery of the content I am sure.

After class I had a student come up to me and say “You handled that [embarrasing situation] with such grace, what a great day!”

My response to her was “Well, what else could I do, run from the room screaming?”

The unscripted fall reminded me of the lessons I have been living as a struggling leader and that I need to keep top of mind:

  • If failure wasn’t an option for leaders, we wouldn’t have many in this world
  • Failure, if used as a vehicle to learn, adapt, improve, can help a person become a better leader
  • When you fall, get up and keep going. Even leaders are human
  • People fear perfect leaders if there is such a thing. Failure, fumbles and stumbles bring leaders a little closer to the heart of their followers.
  • Don’t blame others for your missteps. When mistakes happen, look inside first, always

I am still worn from trying to land solidly on my feet in an ever challenging environment but at least after my class experience, I know that when I literally fall on my butt, I can get back up on my feet and deliver.

What are some of your stories of failure and recovery?


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Cheryl Dilley
Cheryl Dilley 
is a Program Director at Intel Corporation
She is a transformation leader, coach, and program strategist
Email | LinkedIn WebFacebook

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