Clinton replied he grew up without a television until the age of ten, so he learned to listen to other people's stories and to tell great stories himself, for entertainment. He said, "I think the most important thing is to listen, to realise everybody's got a story."
Why did storytelling turn President Clinton into a leader?
Stories tug at emotions more strongly than cold facts or hard principles.
Human existence is defined by story-telling. The life we think we live is really the story written for us by our brains and we explain things around us by fitting isolated events into a continuous storyline.
Your impression of the people in your life is a patchwork of their stories. Clinton's picture of his world was formed by the stories that existed within it.
His vision of leadership came from wanting to navigate through these stories, to change the plots he disliked and to rewrite the stories he disagreed with.
A great leader turns uncertainty into a great story.
A great leader is a master storyteller. You inspire your team to follow you into uncertainty by reframing the uncertainty into a tangible story your team is able to visualize.
If you're leading a startup, your narrative is based on improving other people's stories. If you want to change other people's stories, you must first develop a feel for how the plots of their stories tend to run.
To be a great leader and an even greater entrepreneur, you need to create a giant inventory of stories.
Learn someone's story and tell someone a story every day.
It's relatively easy to meet a stranger or friend and to state a fact, "It's raining" or "I've had a rough day." The listener will listen politely, assuming you're trying to offload. They are putting more effort into the conversation than you are.
Telling a story, instead, reverses the dynamic. You're actively trying to entertain your listener. You have to put in the effort to spark your listener's emotions and capture their interest. A story isn't just gossip or information. Your narrative must contain an event, flanked by a beginning and an ending. You win extra points for humour.
The only way to get better at telling stories, is to practice. Learn someone's story and tell someone a story, every day. Practice storytelling with strangers at every opportunity.
If you're picking up a coffee, tell the person waiting next to you a story. If you're in a cab, make up a story and entertain your cab driver instead of being entertained yourself.
Here are five ways by which practicing storytelling every day can help you become a better leader.
1. Stories help you tell better stories.
Being skilled at storytelling can improve your success in the startup world. When you're giving a talk or pitching your product to investors, you're really just telling them a story you want them to believe in. If your audience resonates emotionally with the future your product promises, they are more likely to commit to it. A good story can make all the difference.
2. Stories remove your biases.
Listening to a diverse array of stories trains you to adopt new vantage points and shed any cognitive biases you might be carrying. If you're regularly pulled out of your usual box, you'll find it easier to think outside the box when you need to.
3. Stories can help you dig your way out, if you're stuck.
Every story has a plot that twists around a problem. The more stories you encounter, the more permutations you see of solutions to problems. If you have a problem on your leadership journey, drawing a parallel with an unrelated story you've heard before can help.
4. Stories inspire trust.
When you're leading a team, you're guiding human beings who are each living their own unique story. If you're in the habit of listening to people's stories, you'll be more sensitive to the nuances of these stories, so you will understand the core needs of your employees better. This will win you their trust.
5. Stories teach you what matters.
Your startup journey might be so intense that you have little time to spend outside your business. This creates a barrier between you and the people whose stories you are trying to change, especially if they belong to a different social demographic. Listening to their stories helps you get an authentic picture of your customer base.