Storytelling as a Leadership Tool

International lawyers often take the lead in legal matters, guiding teams of clients, younger lawyers and other counsel through international complexities.

What happens when differences arise within a team? How can a leader bridge the gap and move the legal matter forward?  How can a lawyer impart the value of teamwork?

Effective leaders know the power of stories, analogies and metaphors to teach lessons, build bridges, and create community within a team.  Empirical data shows that stories often carry more weight with listeners than rational analysis; listeners tend to actively listen to and analyze stories, relating the stories to their own experiences, whereas they might “tune out” hard data.  See James Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge (John Wiley & Sons, Third Edition, 2003), 88.

So, how do leaders incorporate storytelling as an effective leadership tool?  Speeches, lectures and training seminars are perfect opportunities for teaching with anecdotes.  However, leaders can also use metaphors and other stories to relate important principles during team and one-on-one meetings.  This indirect instruction powerfully communicates the leader’s values, and can inspire team members to work towards a common goal.

For tips on persuasive storytelling techniques, consult Jim Perdue’s newest release called Winning with Stories: Using the Narrative to Persuade in Trials, Speeches and Lectures (State Bar of Texas, 2006).   Although clearly geared for plaintiffs’ trial lawyers, defense lawyers and transactional attorneys alike will find useful tips on how to teach persuasively with anecdotes. 

 

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