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Leadership stories

 

Disciplines > Storytelling > Storytelling in organizations > Leadership stories

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Stories in organizations often tell about how leadership happens there. A typical story frame tells about how:

  • A problem arises and the organization falls into chaos
  • People are uncertain and troubled
  • The leader appears and takes charge
  • Organization, direction and action are created
  • The problem is resolved and order is restored

The leadership story may also tell of the struggles and difficulties of the journey and how the leader led the people to 'the promised land'.

Example

A natural disaster had caused the main building to collapse, fortunately in some respect overnight so nobody was hurt. The Building Services manager, working out of a local hotel organized a team across the company to source scarce temporary buildings. They worked nights and weekends, and within a week the business had re-started and within two weeks the main building was being reconstructed.

Discussion

A telling factor of these stories is whether the leader acts in a controlling or collaborative way (or any balance of these). The implication for future leaders is that they should follow the examples portrayed in the success stories. In some companies people want to be told what to do, especially in times of crisis, whilst in others the route to success in leadership is to involve and communicate widely.

Leaders that appear need not be appointed managers, and empowering companies may well tell stories about people from the lowest ranks stepping up to the place.

Leadership stories may echo the pattern described by Wilfred Bion in the Basic Assumption Group, where the anxiety of leader-seeking is replaced by hopes of redemption as the leader appears. Idealistic stories will have the leader succeeding, whilst cynical stories will tell of failure.

See also

The Basic Assumption Group, Leadership

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