What are Leadership Life-stories?

The Storyteller’s Compass

In a data saturated world seemingly filled with the need to measure facts, I am concerned that we are in jeopardy of losing an important element of leadership; the ability to connect as humans and understand each other through storytelling.

Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor comments: “A good story helps you influence the interpretation people give to facts. Facts aren’t influential until they mean something to someone” (p. 51). Leadership life-stories provide meaning and an important bridge which connects empirical data and experience, hard facts and anecdotal evidence.

I’m slowly revising and updating my thoughts about Leadership Life-stories through these website posts. This story is from my original posts when I first stepped out with these thoughts in 2015.

What are Leadership Life-stories?

Think back to a moment in your life where you learned about leadership or did something that improved your leadership capabilities. These times can be as simple as a conversation or quote that sticks with you or they can be something that develops over a few weeks, months, or even years.

I think about a summer job in college working on a road crew patching asphalt roads. As one of the few “college kids” working that summer, the hard driving, hard drinking, and hard living fellas typically gave me some of the toughest jobs. They would yell ‘Hey kid, get your college…[butt] over here!’ As piles of hot, sticky asphalt waited to be shoveled and patched. I certainly stood up for myself but quickly got into the tons of tar steaming on the road. I finished the work, often shoulder to shoulder with men who were twice my age.

I loved the physical work out each day and the conversations in the cab of our county truck with these guys. By the end of the summer I was offered a full-time job and given a baseball cap to remember the team.

For me this story is an example of a leadership life-story which I define as: A formative experience that provides a turning point. This leadership moment is reflected on to construct a new meaning which is then shared with others through a story.

Leadership Life-stories Process

A few points to consider about the process of Leadership Life-stories from the Summer job:

DISCOVER: The formative experience and turning point that summer was the importance of treating everyone with respect.

DEVELOP: The meaning developed during the summer is standing up for myself often without the swear words, getting the work done, often side-by-side with the team.

DELIVER: My attempt with the writing is to share this story for you to think about a Summer job or leadership moment of your own to begin your Leadership Life-stories process.

After almost 40 years, I still have the baseball cap they gave me as a reminder of this important to me moment of my Leadership Life-stories.

So, what leadership life-story can you begin to cultivate?

A key step for me in this process is listening to the stories of others and telling some of your stories. As the New Year begins, I’ll drop some thoughts and tips to help you DISCOVER, DEVELOP, and DELIVER your Leadership Life-stories.

Here is the first challenge, in the next two weeks grab a cup of coffee, or adult beverage. Sit down with family and friends to listen and speak with those in your life. You will be amazed at what you learn through leadership storytelling.

Let's Connect

One of my strongest passions is connecting with others and hearing their stories. Even if we never work together, I’d still love to meet you, learn more about you, and hear some of your unique experiences.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you, future friend. 

Chris Hamstra

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