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The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell: A book review by Bob Morris

The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell
Paul Smith
Sourcebooks (August 2019)

How almost anyone can communicate with high impact every time

Albert Einstein once suggested that if you cannot explain your “great idea” to a six-year-old, you really don’t understand it. I was again reminded of that as I began to read this brief but brilliant book in which Paul Smith explains why — with rare exception — great leaders tell great stories. (Einstein used stories to explain his major theories.) They know which stories to tell and how to tell them. Their basic strategy is to anchor ideas in human experience with which others can readily associate. According to Smith, “What stories you tell is more important than how you tell them.”

That would be a narrative about something that happened to someone. “As such, it will include a time, a place, and a main character. That main character will have a goal, and there will probably be an obstacle getting in the way of that goal — a villain, if you will. And there will be events that transpire along the way that hopefully resolve themselves in the end.”

Now more than at any prior time I can remember, employees as well as customers are asking questions such as “Why should I care?” That is a legitimate question.

Paul Smith focuses on ten types of stories — specific approaches — to consider when taking such questions into full account. One of his key points is that each has a specific objective. For example, “Where We Came From” stories help to increase pride in an organization. All of the Fortune 50 companies were once start-ups. “Why We Can’t Stay Here” stories help to create a sense of urgency that will create buy-in of change initiatives. “Where We’re Going” stories help to enhance a vision of what can be accomplished. You get the idea.

Smith provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that explain how to master the WHAT and WHY of great stories. Readers must adapt this material to the given objective. Here are “tips” to help them craft their own recruiting story. “Ask yourself, and the people you work with, these three questions:

1. What made you want to come here?
2. Why do you stay?
3. Have you ever thought about quitting but decided not to? What made you change your mind?”

There are comparable tips for each of the other nine. Smith also includes a Conclusion that will help his readers to take their next steps.

To repeat, the key to great leadership is to tell great stories. If you are determined to develop high-impact for explaining, describing, and/or convincing other people, Paul Smith will provide just about everything you need.


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