Neverending Inspiring Story


In 1984, a wonderful film called ‘Neverending Story’ was released. It tells the story of a boy called Bastian picked on by his father and by bullies. One day he decides to play truant and walks into a strange bookstore, where in the attic, he discovers a book called "The Neverending Story". As Bastian reads the book, he's enveloped in the unfolding tale. It’s a fantasy story that a boy reading a book can become part of that story. But what if leadership could be a ‘Neverending Story’?

Power of story

Stories are not just for children. Story has immense power and connection and is a vital tool for connecting people to the purpose of what you are communicating. Scientists have done studies on the brains of the story teller and the story listener and what they have discovered is amazing. Story-telling activates a part of the brain that enables the listener to turn the story into their own. It causes mirroring in the brain of the story teller and listener. It releases dopamine when it experiences an emotionally charged event. Psychologists suggest that this can help the listener remember details up to 22 times more than just facts alone.[i] Therefore, story is powerful and key to communicating the purpose to connect the listener.

But, living in the story of another can be even more powerful. Becoming engaged and enveloped in the story is a key part of storytelling in leadership. Howard Gardner believes that leadership ‘is the ability to tell a story that affects the thoughts, feelings and actions of others’. [ii]

Story that engages with your story

This morning, I was interviewing Dave Courteen, MD of Mosaic, about his leadership and the importance of story. As we discussed it, the concept of us telling our story of leadership, can resonate with those working for us and make connection. It is then that our story becomes part of their story and their story then becomes part of our story.

So, who have been your leaders who have affected your thoughts, feelings and actions? Who entered your story and has shaped it?

Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, said, “People don't believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them. They often believe what their friends tell them. They always believe what they tell themselves.”[iii] So, inspiring people is actually the ability to tell a story that intrinsically connects with their story, the story that they want to tell.

Everyday People, Everyday Leaders

This month, I release my book, ‘Everyday People, Everyday Leaders’. Each chapter tells the story of different everyday people who have exhibited a leadership skill. Each of these people sharing their story and influencing the story of the next person. I tell the story of Cyril my youth worker who invited me to help lead a group of children in a church group. I tell the story of Doc, my PE teacher who invited me to help him lead a younger rugby team. As they modelled the leadership to me, it became part of my story of 30 years of teaching and leadership. As life continued I met people like Jenny, Hannah, Liz, all who worked for me, but I learnt aspects of leadership from. All of whom are in the book as it happens!

As we ‘tell a story of the future’, even in the words that we say or the way that we lead, it inspires others. Inspiring is about resonating something in the soul of another so that it takes hold and then sparks the next story.

Look back on your life so far. Some leaders have influenced your story. They entered it, influenced you with their leadership. You now take that leadership and lead. You in turn influence a group of people’s story and their leadership. And so the story continues. The never ending inspiring leadership story.

. . . . . And if you fancy reading lots of inspiring ‘Everyday people, Everyday Leader’ stories then the book is available on Amazon. (Click this link to see & order a copy)

There are 12 chapters. So it doesn't go on forever, but you never know it could resonate with your story and maybe become a Neverending Inspiring Leadership story.

[i] Jerome Bruner, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Harvard University Press; New edition (1 July 1986) ISBN-13: 978-0674003668

[ii] Howard Gardner – Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership. (New York: Basic Books, 1995). ISBN-13: 978-0465027736

[iii] Seth Godin – Tribes: We need you to lead us. Piatkus Books (6 Nov. 2008) ISBN-13: 978-0749939755

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