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A worthy study of leadership and, in the days of instant everything, a good reflection on things that matter most
on 15 November 2014
"Telling the Story," a book about narrative leadership, begins by asking the question, "do you read leadership books from cover to cover?" and answers the question in the negative. I have read many books on organisational management and leadership and have to agree that there are few you would need or want to read in their entirety. There are some, of course, but it does set the question up in your mind as to whether you will read this one from cover to cover and that answer, as far as I am concerned is probably not. That is not as damning as it might sound, as anyone interested in leadership and organisational management, (which is not necessarily the same thing), will want to draw from it what they need depending on the context of the problems faced or their particular line of enquiry. The concept of narrative leadership is a good one - in telling the story one can think of many world leaders who had a narrative to tell and possessed marked leadership qualities: Winston Churchill comes to mind, but perhaps more relevant might be Nelson Mandella or Aung San Suu Ki, all of whom are mentioned in the book and whose leadership has been transformational and carried with it a strong narrative. The argument for this style of leadership is especially piognant where change is the focus, again this is dealt with by the book as is the necessessity of getting one's voice heard and the power that exists, sometimes, in a lone voice at the right time and in the right place. A good narrative, whether of one's own life of that of a nation, will resonate strongly in the minds of most people since it is about experiences either shared or else one that marks a path for others to follow: I am heavily summarising the book, but this seem to be the main tenet and that the aim is to reach the hearts and souls of the people who read or hear the message. Good leadership, I have read elsewhere is about getting people to follow you: narrative leadership seems to me, to be a fairly convincing style and methodology. The book ends on a note of urgency, that good leadership matters, not just for now, but also future generations.
The book is well organised and written in a style that is suitably authorative while remaining accessible to the non-academic reader. Chapters are arranged into sections and the reader can select parts to read through, study in depth or merely scan and return to some time later. On the whole, this aspect of leadership is worthy of study and certainly seems workable in practice, providing the stories are within the focus and context of what you are needing to do, but a key point of the book is about getting people onside and being able to work for the benefit of all: in this way we might all become narrative leaders.