The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action through Narrative by Steve Denning was one of the top four 2007 best business books listed in the Financial Times. Denning defines “narrative intelligence” as the ability to use stories to resonate with, teach, and motivate audiences. Success requires understanding the “stories” of the audience, and then creating a new story in the mind of the listener. A well-crafted story first grabs the audience’s attention then personally engages the audience in the story. They become part of the story, part of the dream, part of the goal.
I don’t think we are aware of how story-centric our lives are. Cognitive reframing, or changing one’s story, is an essential power tool in the professional counselor’s toolbox.
We actively seek out stories that entertain us, engage us, inform us, and provoke us to reflect on ourselves and our world. Stories can change people, and they can change societies. Within the scope of business, transformational leaders use stories to engage and ignite the entire supply chain.
In The Secret Language of Leadership Denning details, step by step, how leaders use language to become inspire and galvanize change. Denning uses Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign communication blunders to illustrate common communication failures. He contrasts the failure with the dramatic success of Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth six years later which did a stellar job of getting the audience’s attention, eliciting an emotional desire for a different future, and re-enforcing that desire with reasons.
Despite some of the redundancies, The Secret Language of Leadership is a must read for anyone in a leadership position or who aspires to lead others. Four out of five stars.