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Telling Stories: How Leaders Can Influence, Teach, and Inspire

Vanessa Boris and Lani Peterson

December 2017 • Harvard Business Publishing

Part of the work of a leader is to influence—to teach, convince,and inspire those around them. That includes their staffs, their stakeholders, and their organization’s customers. Leaders have many forums where they can assert their influence, from casual encounters to “management by walking around,” from presentations at meetings to mentoring and coaching, and even within formal learning programs. Whatever the mechanism by which it’s delivered, however, influence doesn‘t come about just through conveying information or reciting facts and figures listed on a PowerPoint slide. Leaders influence when they reach people in ways that help them to understand, enable them to remember, and inspire them to act. Influence is about changing ideas AND changing behaviors. It’s what leads learning to be sustainable. It’s also where storytelling comes in.