The Power of Your Story.
The power of the “Modern Elder” paradigm is that those of us 40 and older are entering fertile new territory, building on years of life and career experience to stay interconnected, adding value to the world.
Synthesizing the “Modern Elder” paradigm requires that we begin to define and illustrate this next chapter of our lives and careers. What is the power of creating and communicating our new story? Not only does the writing and communicating of this story impact others, but it deeply impacts us because it is the next step on our hero’s (heroine’s) journey.
In his 1995 book, Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership, Howard Gardner brought his theories to life with minibiographies of 20th-century leaders—from Margaret Mead to Mahatma Gandhi. By his example, he illustrated just how compelling stories can be. In fact, the relationship between the stories leaders tell and the traits they embody is one of four essential factors of effective leadership, said Gardner. He added that leaders are “persons who, by word and/or personal example, markedly influence the behaviors, thoughts, and/or feelings of a significant number of their fellow human beings."
Founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies in Claremont, CA, Paul J. Zak found that stories produce a brain chemical called oxytocin, which motivates cooperation. Zak’s subsequent research revealed that stories do this by developing tension and sustaining interest during character-driven narratives. Two other brain chemicals play a role in this: Cortisol focuses attention and Dopamine rewards us for becoming immersed. Some researchers have even found that novels may enhance empathy by engaging us in ways like these.
The moral of the story? By setting the right scene and choosing the right anecdote, you increase the chance that your communication will both be remembered and embraced. This may enable you to convey deeper insights about the impact you will have in this new chapter of your career journey:
- Why should I care?
- How will this improve lives?
- How will we feel if we succeed in achieving this goal?
Don’t forget your brand story or founding myth. Bring this passion alive by the retelling of that tale—connecting it to a larger purpose. If you make that emotional connection with an authentic story—especially if you reflect challenges your audience also faces—you’ll go a long way toward changing attitudes and behaviors and making your ideas stick.
Everyone loves a story of human struggle and triumph—even in an age of abstractions, analysis, and artificial intelligence. Though suppressed in business for generations, storytelling remains central to who we are as humans, indispensable for innovation, and critical for effective leadership. It turns out that storytelling isn’t just for firepits. It’s absolutely essential in the workplace as well.
Renee Scudder is a modern elder and an executive and corporate leadership trainer. She is the founder of The Inspire! Leadership Program. Her website is: www.inspireleadershiptraining.com. You can subscribe at Leadership Insight of the Month.