Category Archives: leadership

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The stories we shape will also shape us

John's reflections, leadership, Speaking, Storytelling Leave a comment

This week, one of my favorite reflections about storytelling—from the recently departed British novelist Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)—came to mind: “People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.”  While I find Pratchett’s words extremely interesting and thought-provoking, I cannot say that I agree with them completely. Whenever I am asked if we shape our stories, or if our stories shape us, I respond that I see it as a phenomenon that happens in both directions. More than “we shape our stories” or “our stories shape us”, I find that there is a synergy, even a symbiosis, between the stories and the teller. In the best cases, each one helps the … Continue reading

How Martin Luther King prepared himself to improvise

leadership, Speaking Leave a comment

Recently, as I was reading through some notes I took about Martin Luther King during my doctoral study, I was reminded that much of his prowess as an orator was crafted in moments of creative spontaneity. Dr King was indeed a master of finding inspiration in the moment, often reacting to an audience with fervor and enthusiasm, altering his words and his voice to fit the situation.  At the same time, it would be a mistake to underestimate the role of preparation and deliberate practice in Dr King’s success. He forged himself as a leader and speaker through a dynamic combination of preparation and improvisation. In fact, it was his many hours of mindful … Continue reading

How Leaders Use Personal Stories to Make a Tangible Difference

leadership, Storytelling 1 Comment

The forthcoming book that I referred to in the last post—about how individuals use their personal stories of identity to influence those around them—opens with an example from the career of Barak Obama, a tale that demonstrates how telling his personal stories propelled him to prominence on the US political stage.  My co-author and I thought long and hard about whether or not we should use such a powerful world leader as our initial vignette. On the one hand, we want to emphasize that this is not a book about politicians, or even about people who lead from positions of authority. Our goal was always to write a book for everyone who wants to … Continue reading

A quandary about my next book

leadership, Storytelling Leave a comment

Other than a hectic travel schedule and my recent philosophical ramblings—on Albert Camus, Sisyphus, Marcel Proust, and the like—a matter on my mind these past weeks has been what to do with my latest book, on storytelling and influence. As many of you know, this is not a new project, but rather something I have been working on for more than five years.   The draft of this book was ready to show to publishers more than six months ago. However, the manuscript stayed on the proverbial “back burner” for a good while, as I was extremely busy with travel and some absorbing new client work. Recently, though, I began … Continue reading

Reasons to Smile at Work

John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

These days, several elements seem to be conspiring to encourage me to extend our “visit” to the winery of my student years. First, my own reprocessing of this period from my past continues to yield surprises, and that has indeed been fascinating for me. Second, I am finding the lessons from this time more interesting and important to my current thinking than I had previously realized. And third, coincidentally, what I picked up on the floor of the winery relates well to some of the issues I have been reading about lately in the press, particularly with respect to self-engagement.  Of course, I had no idea back then that I was learning so much that would influence … Continue reading

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