The Leadership Image

Tell me your story!

Recently, I revisited a classic business book:  The Leadership Engine by Noel M. Tichy. Worth reading and rereading! In it, Tichy shares clues as to what makes a great leader. Leaders, he found, develop more leaders.   In this way, they create a company that can continue to win. Tichy says, “Six characteristics define winning leaders: teaching, learning, ideas, values, energy and edge. The ultimate hallmark of world class, champion leaders is the ability to weave all the other elements together into vibrant stories that lead their organizations into the future.”

Ooooh.  Goosebumps! I love that. Great leaders tell great stories. Tichy describes three kinds of stories that make up a great leader’s storyline.  You can learn the elements of these stories to help you develop your own storyline…and your leadership skills.

  • “Who I Am” Stories. These stories explain who you are, and how you came to be that way.  Often, these are stories from your childhood.  Did you have to walk 6 miles to school each day?  Did you drop out of school to run the family business when your dad got sick?  Did you marry your high school sweetheart 47 years ago, and do you still hold hands at the movies?  These stories illustrate your strengths and values and let folks know what makes you tick.  Are you competitive?  That can be a powerful leadership trait.  Instead of announcing, “I am competitive,” tell a story about winning the 3A High School Wrestling Championship.
  • “Who We Are” Stories. Martin Luther King galvanized the Civil Rights movement by declaring, “If I am stopped, this movement will not stop.  Kill me, but know that if you do, you have 50,000 more to kill.”  Through his speeches, his stories, King created a nation of activists.  He made people understand their role and responsibilities in his dream.  Great leaders understand that significant change takes the energy and talent of other people.  Tell stories that illustrate how your listener fits into the picture.