The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative (J–B US non–Franchise Leadership) Hardcover – 14 Jun 2005
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"...there are good stories here...all used to make leadership points..." ( Times Educational Supplement, 23 rd September 2005)
"...there are good stories here...all used to make leadership points..." ( Times Educational Supplement , 23 rd September 2005) shows how storytelling is one of the few available ways to handle the principal and most difficult challenges of leadership. (Publicnet.co.uk, December 2010).
From the Inside Flap
In his best–selling book, Squirrel Inc., former World Bank executive and master storyteller Stephen Denning used a tale to show why storytelling is a critical skill for leaders. Now, in this hands–on guide, Denning explains how you can learn to tell the right story at the right time.
Whoever you are in the organization CEO, middle management, or someone on the front lines you can lead by using stories to effect change. Filled with myriad examples, The Leader′s Guide to Storytelling shows how storytelling is one of the few available ways to handle the principal and most difficult challenges of leadership: sparking action, getting people to work together, and leading people into the future. The right kind of story at the right time can make an organization "stunningly vulnerable" to a new idea.See all Product description
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Those who have read Denning's The Springboard and/or Squirrel Inc. already know that he specializes in knowledge management and organizational storytelling. In this volume, he develops his core concepts in much greater depth, acknowledging his high regard for Peter Senge's vision of the Total Learning Organization as delineated in his pioneer volume, The Fifth Discipline. Briefly, in it Senge suggests that there are five separate but interrelated "disciplines": building a Shared Vision which enables an organization to build a common commitment to the same long-term goals; formulating Mental Models which guide, inform, and sustain creativity and innovation; encouraging and supporting Team Learning; Personal Mastery of certain skills which enable an individual to learn and understand more and thus perform at a higher level of competence; and finally, Systems Thinking which establishes a holistic view, both of one's organization and of the marketplace in which it pursues success.
In his Introduction to this book, Denning asserts that "the best way to communicate with people you are trying to lead is very often through a story. The impulse here is practical and pedagogical. [The Leader's Guide to Storytelling] shows how to use storytelling to deal with the most difficult challenges faced by leadership today." Denning wholly agrees with Senge that a learning organization is an environment "where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together." However, while agreeing on the importance of "systems thinking" as a way of looking at systems as a whole that will enable people to see complex chains of causation and so solve complex problems, Denning has three concerns which he shares on page 253. By the time his reader arrives at that point in the narrative, she or he may well share the same concerns.
My purpose in this brief commentary is to focus on what I consider to be Denning's key points as he explains why and how storytelling is often the best way for leaders to communicate with those whom they are trying to lead. What he offers is a cohesive and comprehensive system. These are the core principles, as discussed thoroughly in Chapters 3-10:
1. Select and then tell the story which is most appropriate for the given leadership challenge.
2. Tell that story with style, truth, thorough preparation, and effective delivery.
3. Select a narrative pattern based on the primary objective: to motivate others to action, to build trust in you, to build trust in your organization, to transmit your values, to get others working together, to share knowledge, to "tame the grapevine," or to create and share your vision.
Each reader will appreciate Table 1.1. (on page 18) which summarizes key points for each of the eight different narrative patterns discussed separately in Chapters, 3-10. (Additional Tables are provided later in the narrative whenever appropriate.) At the end of each chapter in Part Two, Denning thoughtfully includes a "Template" which poses a set of questions to be addressed when, for example, crafting a "springboard story." Here's the first of ten questions: "What is the specific change in the organization or community or group that you hope to spark with the story?" Then in Part Three (Chapters 11 and 12), Denning explains how to put it all together by using narrative effectively, both to transform an organization and to become an interactive leader.
Of special interest to me Denning's discussion (in the final chapter) of what he calls "Interactive, Tolstoyean" leadership and its relation to other theories in terms of leadership as a trait, as a skill, as a style, as situational, as motivation, and as transformation. This discussion serves as an appropriate conclusion to his book, one in which Denning has spelled out "specific, identifiable, measurable, trainable behaviors that can be used to achieve the goals of transformational leadership."
Storytelling really is a performance art. Some master the requisite skills. Most don't. Denning offers no guarantees but does claim that those who consistently use the narrative tools he has provided will acquire new capabilities. Specifically, to communicate more effectively who they are and what they stand for, to be more attentive to the world as it is now, to speak the truth and do it well, to make their values explicit and take actions which are consistent with those values, to listen to the world and be receptive to innovation. Those who possess these new capabilities will attract the interest, then earn and sustain the trust and respect of those whom they may be privileged to lead.
If this is the kind of leader you aspire to be, Denning's book awaits you...eager to be of substantial assistance.
For whatever reasons, only in recent years has there been an awareness and appreciation of the importance of the business narrative. Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Annette Simmons' The Story Factor, Doug Lipman's Improving Your Storytelling, and Storytelling in Organizations co-authored by John Seely Brown, Denning, Katarina Groh, and Laurence Prusak.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
My biggest complaint is that the book is written like a 19th century philosophy treatise! Philosophy was one of my majors in college, so I am well-aware of the agony in reading philosophical text - instead of getting straight to the point, it meanders and loses the reader after every third sentence! In the first chapter of this book, Denning goes on and on about things you could care less about for over 20 pages. I had a sigh of relief when he finally put down all his points in the chapter in just two pages at the end of the chapter!
When I was reading in the plane, I thought at first the reason for my agony was that I was tired. However, each time I got bored with Denning's book, I switched to a novel, and I was not tired anymore! Hey, wait a minute! I thought this was supposed to be a book on storytelling! Why then was it written like an obscure Ph.D. dissertation? You don't believe me? See for yourself. Here's a sampling of the torture:
"Second, the apparent paradox of zero improvement in performance from teams in organizations overall - along with extraordinary gains reportedly made in specific instances - reflects the fact that teams are found at both ends of the effectiveness spectrum."
Now do you believe me!? :)
I'm not saying the entire book looks like the glob you see above. My point is simply that there are numerous sentences here that will require you to pause, say "Huh?", and then reread. So, if you are a speed reading junkie like me, please be very patient! Speed reading is not recommended.
Despite the stated criticism, Denning makes really good points in this book. The book has my complete endorsement due to the great points. Besides, as my philosophy professors used to tell me in college, if you don't have the patience to tread through the gobbledygook of philosophical treatises, then maybe you're not scholarly enough to major in philosophy!
I read and review books about leadership in hopes that people will find the books that will help them do the right thing.
Usually, I don't succeed in finding good resources as often as I succeed in finding resources that don't add anything to what Peter Drucker first said 50 or 60 years ago.
I recently heard Steve Denning tell a 15 minute story about how he used one brief anecdote to develop the support he needed to help transform the World Bank from a lagging lender to poor countries into a premier source of knowledge management. I was transfixed by that story and immediately ordered this book in which that story appears.
In The Leader's Guide to Storytelling, I learned that we often go into hypnotic trances when we hear such a story. I must admit that I did.
In fact, I didn't even understand why the story worked at the World Bank until I read the book. Here's what happened. Steve Denning had been given an opportunity to speak on behalf of knowledge management for 10 minutes in front of some of the World Bank's senior executives. What can you do in 10 minutes? You can tell an arresting story that stimulates the hearers to fill in their own solutions that advance your agenda. And that's what Steve Denning did. Two leaders turned that anecdote into their idea of what the World Bank should do in knowledge management. The rest is history.
While the story could have been built up into hours of interesting details, I found that the "minimal" version affected me much like Lincoln's Gettysburg address does. I felt the story throughout my body. I lived that moment with Steve Denning. And I understood both his point about story telling and about why brevity works better in business.
The strength of this book comes in Steve Denning's experience in changing major agendas in large organizations. Although the book's title says the book is about storytelling, The Leader's Guide to Storytelling is actually about a new style of collaborative management that goes beyond the familiar boundaries of theories X, Y and Z. The notion is to invite a collaboration to achieve more worthwhile directions as the main focus of an organization.
While other authors, such as Senge, Hamel and Christensen, argue for innovation to hide in the wings until it is ready to take center stage, Steve Denning persuasively argues that innovation can take the stage before it has fulfilled its potential . . . and accomplish more as a result.
Everyone who reads this book will admire the moral legitimacy of that position. It's the viewpoint of a winner, rather than someone who is afraid to take on the toughest challenges.
I intend to recommend that my university begin offering a course based on this book for all of its business and NGO graduate students.
While most books about storytelling are strong on the storytelling subject (such as Annette Simmons' The Story Factor), The Leader's Guide to Storytelling puts stories into an organizational context in ways that only an organizational master can do. Most leadership books are written by professors and consultants, and the work shows that they haven't done much leading. The Leader's Guide to Storytelling is leading as described by a leader who did it from a weak position . . . the most important perspective in any organization. Those who are close to the problems and opportunities always see both well. How do they engage the rest of the organization? Steve Denning has the answers in his detailed chapters on what stories to tell, how to tell those stories and his thoughts on what leaders should do.
by the fact that it was dryly written and not that engaging. When a book reads like a textbook and becomes a chore to get through,
I put it down.