Both brands and leaders use stories of identity to inspire followers. But, stories of identity are not enough. They must tell stories that engage their communities.
Leadership is about telling a story that people want to be a part of.
Effective leaders engage with their stories. They give us not only a sense of belonging, but also a sense of possibility. Their stories provide the context that makes people feel part of a larger experience.
In True to Our Roots, a book about his experience at Fetzer Vineyards, former CEO Paul Dolan describes how he transformed the winery by creating a vivid picture of the future that could come to life for others in the organisation. His tale combined a story of identity (“we are special people”) with a future story, a story about “who we can become”. It was all encapsulated in a simple phrase: “Fetzer people: enhancing the quality of life.” In a more protracted version, Dolan explained the vision to his people: Fetzer would be an environmentally and socially conscious company that produces wines of the highest quality and value, while at the same time embracing, and taking responsibility for, its higher societal mission.
By defining a cause, not merely a business, a mission as opposed to a task, Dolan was able to convince employees that their work was truly essential to their customers’ well-being, and even that what they did every day mattered to the world at large. They were not merely making wine; they were enhancing the quality of life.
In the next entry, I will give the example of a brand that inspires it community in a similar fashion—using stories of engagement.