Leadership: The Power of Storytelling

Hola Todos!

In his post below, Mr. Mike reminds us about the power of storytelling.  While DNA may give us our biological blueprint, I believe storytelling acts much in the same way giving us our psychological blueprint.  One of my mentors, William Locander current dean of the Joseph J. Butt College of Business at the University of Loyola in New Orleans (link), pegged me right way during my first semester in the Ph.D. program at the University of South Florida.  Dean Locander said something like this, “Dan-o, you’re a scrapper.  You’re not the brightest one in the room and often it’s not pretty but man do you get stuff done.  You just find a way to make it happen…. scrapping along.”

Well that might not be a well spectacularly detailed story but it clearly fit my identity.  I never really called myself a scrapper prior to my Ph.D. program but being from the greater Philadelphia area, I guess having a Rocky-like metaphor isn’t such as bad thing.

So what is your story? Think abut that today.

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o

To:  The Great Leaders Who Have a Passion for Continuous Learning

Roz Savage has rowed over 8,000 miles and spent 312 alone in her 23 foot boat.  In 2006, she rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, and in 2010 achieved her goal of rowing across the Pacific Ocean   She is now thinking of crossing the Indian Ocean.  In addition to these adventures, she has also run in the London and New York marathons finishing in the top 2% of the women runners in all races.  Roz Savage was not always an adventurer, however.  In her April 2010 talk, Mission Blue Voyage, she speaks about how she re-created her life to the one that she dreamed and chose, and lessons she learned from her ocean travels.

A management consultant and investment banker at age thirty-four, she knew that this is not what she wanted in life.  She set out to find her purpose, and she did this by first writing her obituary:

“I sat down one day and wrote two versions of my own obituary, the one that I wanted, a life of adventure, and the one that I was actually heading for which was a nice, normal, pleasant life, but it wasn’t where I wanted to be by the end of my life. I wanted to live a life that I could be proud of. And I remember looking at these two versions of my obituary and thinking, ‘Oh boy, I’m on totally the wrong track here. If I carry on living as I am now, I’m just not going to end up where I want to be in five years, or 10 years, or at the end of my life.’ I made a few changes, let loose a few trappings of my old life, and through a bit of a leap of logic, decided to row across the Atlantic Ocean.”

Three important learnings emerged from her self- exploration journey and her adventures.  First, she learned that we are “the stories we tell ourselves.” If we change the story, we find that: “We do have alternatives, and we have the power of free will to choose those alternatives, those sustainable ones to create a greener future.”  Second, she learned that our actions each day have a compounding effect which have future consequences:  “We might think that anything that we do as an individual is just a drop in the ocean, that it can’t really make a difference. But it does…. Anything we do spreads ripples.”  While poor actions and decisions build to create chaos, their reverse can remedy and improve a situation. Thirdly, we have to take responsibility and create our own future: “For so much of my life, I wanted something to make me happy. I thought if I had the right house, the right car, or the right man in my life, then I could be happy, but when I wrote that obituary exercise, I actually grew up a little bit in that moment and realized that I needed to create my own future. I couldn’t just wait passively for happiness to come and find me.”

What would you write for your obituary?  How does it compare to the life that you are now building through your actions and decisions each day? The answers to this questions will result in a choice, a call to action.  Choose wisely; choose well.  May your be inspired by the words of George Bernard Shaw: “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”  Light your fire and burn that candle and carry and run with your torch with passion.

Have a beautiful day and a fantastic week‼!


Contact Information:

Michael M. Reuter

Director, Center for Leadership Development

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University

Tel: (Office) 973.275.2528; (Mobile) 908.419.6060

Email: Michael.Reuter@shu.edu 

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