Why you need to tell your lead­er­ship story

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - JAY ROBB

If you as­pire to be a great leader at work, you need to in­spire us with your story.

Tell us about your moral com­pass, what you be­lieve in and which val­ues you’ll never com­pro­mise.

Talk with us about your greatest hit, your dark­est day and the lessons learned.

Let us know who and what in­spires and mo­ti­vates you.

And share with us the rea­son you chose to lead, the dif­fer­ence you in­tend to make and the legacy you hope to leave.

“Your lead­er­ship story com­mu­ni­cates the mes­sage of iden­tity: who you are as a leader, what you be­lieve in, what drives you and de­fines you as a leader, and how you act,” says Ti­mothy Tobin, author of “Your Lead­er­ship Story” and vice-pres­i­dent of global learn­ing and lead­er­ship at Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional.

“Un­for­tu­nately, too of­ten, lead­ers do not spend time think­ing about or plan­ning their story. It is given lit­tle thought or at­ten­tion and it is left to chance. If you don’t tell your lead­er­ship story, other peo­ple will — and it may not be the story you want told.”

There are two com­pelling rea­sons why a lead­er­ship story de­serves your time and at­ten­tion.

Know­ing your story will make you more self-aware of your strengths, weak­nesses and ar­eas for im­prove­ment. You stand a greater chance of steer­ing clear of blind spots that have the po­ten­tial to de­rail your ca­reer, ruin your rep­u­ta­tion and drive your or­ga­ni­za­tion into the ditch.

A lead­er­ship story also gives you a bet­ter shot at mak­ing an emo­tional con­nec­tion with us and then win­ning our trust and sup­port. You can’t be an ef­fec­tive leader if we’re un­will­ing or un­in­ter­ested in fol­low­ing you.

“If I don’t know about you as a per­son, then I don’t know about you as a leader,” says Tobin. “Lead­er­ship is about peo­ple. Your abil­ity to con­nect with peo­ple can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween great and poor lead­er­ship.”

Tobin cau­tions against telling a lead­er­ship story that’s more fic­tion than fact. Your cred­i­bil­ity will take a hit if what you say doesn’t align with what you do and what we see.

“You can­not fake lead­er­ship,” says Tobin. “It must be sin­cere and real and re­flect who you are. You must search your soul for what you truly be­lieve and not just mas­sage what you want oth­ers to see or hear.”

Un­der­stand­ing your lead­er­ship story is just part of the equa­tion. You also need to tell it.

“How you com­mu­ni­cate your story tells as much about you as the story it­self. If not told right, at the right op­por­tu­nity and with the right au­di­ence, your lead­er­ship story can back­fire.”

All good sto­ry­tellers un­der­stand their au­di­ence. What do we want to hear from you and what do we need to know? What’s on our minds and what con­cerns us? If you don’t know, ask us and we’ll tell you.

“To ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate your lead­er­ship story to your au­di­ence, you need to show em­pa­thy and es­tab­lish rel­e­vance,” says Tobin. “You need to be able to put your­self in their shoes.”

The best time to tell us your story is when the stakes are high and there’s some­thing sig­nif­i­cant to be won or lost for you and our or­ga­ni­za­tion. Tobin says you need to max­i­mize these planned and unan­tic­i­pated make-or-break mo­ments of truth.

“Mo­ments of truth are dis­tinct op­por­tu­ni­ties to share or re­in­force your lead­er­ship story. It is these events that make your lead­er­ship story mem­o­rable.”

If you don’t yet have a clear and com­pelling lead­er­ship story, Tobin will help you find it with a se­ries of ques­tions, ac­tiv­i­ties and tips.

He also shows why you won’t be a great leader if you choose to re­main a closed book or con­tinue to spin a story made up of al­ter­na­tive facts.

@jay­robb serves as di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Mo­hawk Col­lege and lives in Hamil­ton.

“Your Lead­er­ship Story: Use Your Story to En­er­gize, In­spire and Mo­ti­vate,” by Ti­mothy Tobin. Ber­rett-Koehler Pub­lish­ers, $29.95

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