The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell



Paul Smith’s three books on storytelling are must-reads for business leaders, salespeople and parents. And, his latest book, The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell, is yet another required read for leaders – managers, CEOs and team leaders.

Every great leader is a great storyteller. And, the first and most important part of being a great storyteller is knowing what stories to tell,” explains Paul. In fact, “What stories you tell is more important than how you tell them,” he adds.

Part of an innovative book format from IgniteReads, Paul’s new book features a bold design and expertly guides you through the 10 stories leaders need to master. You can read this book in an hour or less. However, plan to spend additional quality time crafting and practicing your versions of the 10 stories you’ll tell.

Paul teaches you the importance of these 10 story categories, describes an example story for each, and provides you tips to help you craft your own compelling story for each category:
  • A Founding Story
  • A Case-for-Change Story
  • A Vision Story
  • A Strategy Story
  • A Corporate-Values Story
  • A Customer Story
  • A Sales Story
  • A Marketing Story
  • A Leadership-Philosophy Story
  • A Recruiting Story
Paul reminds us that storytelling is so powerful because stories are:
  • Aids to decision-making
  • Timeless
  • Demographic-proof
  • Memorable
  • Contagious
  • Inspirational
Today, Paul shares these additional insights about his new book and the stories leaders should tell:

Paul Smith

Question: Why this book and why now?

Paul: I was recently challenged by a publisher to write a book on storytelling that could be read in a single hour. I laughed at first, but then I realized they were serious. A whole genre of books has cropped up recently to cater to a busy executive set that doesn’t want to wade through 250 pages of a book to learn something important. And my first three books (Lead with a Story, Sell with a Story, and Parenting with a Story) definitely required some wading. Across all three, I described 70 specific types of stories illustrated by a combined 250 examples. I’d been thorough. It was definitely time to focus and prioritize what I thought were the most important stories any leader should tell.

Question: If there is an 11th story leaders should tell, what is it?

Paul: #11 would probably be a 'Why you should invest in us’ story. It’s a story an entrepreneur would tell a venture capital firm to get seed money or that a CEO might tell their bankers to get a loan. It’s also a story an executive might tell as part of negotiating the sale of the company when the current owners want to cash out.

Question: Of the 10 stories in the book, which one do most companies tell best?

Paul: I think the company founding story is the one leaders and employees are most consistently familiar with. Everyone who works at Dell Computers (and even many of us who don’t) know about Michael Dell starting the company in his college dorm room. We all know about Bill Gates dropping out of Harvard to start Microsoft, and about Fred Smith getting a C on his term paper at Yale describing an overnight delivery service and founding Fed Ex anyway. But even if leaders are already familiar with the gist of the founders’ story, I don’t think they tell it often enough. Plus, I’ve found that the way they tell it usually needs a little work.

Question: Of the 10 stories in the book, which one do many companies struggle to tell, and why?

Paul: The vision story. The reason is that most people don’t understand the difference between a vision and a mission and a goal. You could be on a mission to build the quietest aircraft engine in the world or have a goal to be the fastest growing restaurant chain on the East Coast. And those could be wonderful missions and goals. But those aren’t the same thing as a vision. A vision is a picture of the future so compelling that people want to go there with you. In other words, a real vision is a glimpse of what that future looks like and would be like to live in. And that glimpse is best described in a story. Most leaders don’t appreciate that distinction and so most never bother to create a vision story.

Question: What's the story behind your grandfather's nickname "Ping," to whom the book is dedicated?

Paul: You can blame that on my oldest sister. When she was a child she couldn’t say “Floyd.” For some reason, it came out as “Ping Ping” which got shortened to “Ping." Twenty years later, her son struggled to pronounce my mother’s name, Vanna. It came out as “Bang Bang” which eventually just became “Bang.” Someday when I have grandkids of my own, I’m sure I'll be called Snork Snork or Flop Flop or some other such precious nonsense. At least that’s how it seems to work in my family.

Reading, The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell, will be one of the best hours you spend in the time ahead. Look for it on sale starting August 1. And, then share it with or gift it to all your managers and employees in leadership positions. With eight hours in the workday and this book being a one-hour read, you can teach 40 colleagues in a workweek how to master the 10 stories great leaders tell.

Paul Smith is one of the world's leading experts in organizational storytelling. He's a popular keynote speaker and corporate trainer in leadership and sales storytelling techniques, a former executive and 20-year veteran of The Procter & Gamble Company, and the bestselling author of three books: Lead with a Story, Sell with a Story, and Parenting with a Story. He can be found at LeadWithAStory

IgniteReads is a new series of one-hour reads written by leading experts and authors – covering trending business and personal growth topics.

Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.

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