The ability to frame and champion a compelling narrative is central to the work of transformational leadership. Great leaders are first and foremost creators of stories that galvanize others, – stories that can invest distant and challenging goals with meaning and appeal. Recent research in neuroscience has shown how human beings are hard-wired for stories. We have story-pattering brains, both constructing and attending to meaning in narrative form. But even without the brain-mapping confirmation of this, the powerful force of stories is evident throughout cultures and throughout history.
Compelling stories capture our imagination, engage us emotionally, and move us. Narrative logic is not the same as factual logic. There is little room for moral appeal in a business case that builds a rational argument around a value proposition. But there is no compelling story, – or convincing call to purpose, – in a narrative that does not appeal in some way to our moral sensibilities.
In fictional stories we are drawn into the challenge faces by the characters. In the stories transformative leaders craft, we are drawn into the challenges we collectively face. As George Akerloft says, “The confidence of a nation or of any large group, tends to revolve around stories… Confidence is not just the emotional state of an individual. It is a view of other people’s confidence, and of other people’s perceptions of other people’s confidence.”
In 2002, Ric Young forged a partnership between DuPont Canada and McGill University to create one of the world’s first social innovation think tanks. In his foreword to Getting To Maybe, the best-selling book that came out of that think tank, he wrote:
“We are living at a point in history when the need and desire for change is profound…It is a pivotal time. Over the past two hundred years, human society has developed exceptional competencies and systems for the task of making things. Going forward, we must become equally adept at the task of making change.”
Creating Connections with Stories
Connecting Our Stories
Creating Possibilities with Stories
Centre for Creative Evolution
Centre for Cultural Evolution