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Leadership and Storytelling: The Evolution of CEO to CSO (Chief Storytelling Officer)

MainbugNowhere is storytelling more important in the business world than in the executive boardroom. Public companies have numerous levels of accountability including commitments to shareholders, and private organizations are also accountable to both internal and external stakeholders.

In the process of trying to deliver a clear message to everyone, there is a huge degree of complexity as CEO's attempt to tell their story. At the product level, today's consumer is quite savvy, and most people just want the honest truth about a situation. Think of the stories companies such as Mattel, Lululemon, GAP and numerous players in the pharmaceutical industry had to tell to regain consumer confidence in their products.

Given the complexities of communicating in today's connected society, the job of a corporate CEO has really become one of Chief Storytelling Officer (CSO). A leader is there not only to lead, but to guide numerous stakeholders to his or her point of view so that corporate strategy can be effectively carried out.

Stories are a great way to convey information, as they affect people at an emotional level. This coupled with the fact that people tend to remember a story (many identify with characters in its plot) makes it an extremely powerful executive tool.

No longer the realm of childhood fable, storytelling has earned its place in the executive suite. The subject has been studied in key business publications all over the world including: Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek and Harvard Business Review - as well as in countless academic and scientific studies citing the benefits to business of using storytelling as a tool.

A CEO who is able to use storytelling effectively will be able to connect with people, and make them feel as if they are part of a community. It's this ability to connect and stir empathy in people that separates a good CEO from a great one.

The next time you see a CEO on the news, see what story he/she is trying to tell. If so, do you feel it's the right story for the situation? Does the story affect you at an emotional level - or do you feel the CEO is just saying what has to be said to get out of a certain situation?

Every business has a story. How a CEO tells it at any point in a company's history can determine the fate of even a multi-billion dollar corporation.




Karen Hegmann


Isn't it great when Wall Street realizes it should have listened in the first place?

Thanks for your comment. Great examples that stories and storytelling DO sell products and services. As well, CEO's who tell effective and truthful ones will be in the news.

Lewis Green


Here are companies where former CEOs were the story tellers: Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's. I say former because at Starbucks Howard is no longer the CEO and neither is Ben (or Jerry), I can never get that right.

Anyway, at first Wall Street rejected their style of doing business. Wall Street was wrong and came onboard.

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