Book Study: Lead with a Story

LeadwithastoryToday’s article is the first in a series learning from the book by Paul Smith, Lead With A Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince, and Inspire.


As all great leaders know, storytelling is a very important and highly effective leadership tool. Leaders of many of the most successful organizations in the world intentionally teach and encourage effective storytelling. These leaders make sure that effective storytelling is an important part of their organization’s culture. According to Smith, just a few of these organizations include:


Microsoft, Nike, Motorola, 3M, Saatchi & Saatchi, Berkshire Hathaway, Eastman Kodak, Disney, Costco, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Southwest Airlines, FedEx, Proctor & Gamble, Armstrong International, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Kimberly-Clark, The Container Store, REI, Northwest Mutual, NASA, and The World Bank.


Lead With A Story offers interesting, engaging and practical advice for effectively crafting your own stories to better accomplish your personal and organizational goals. The book also offers advice on six key elements that will help turn a good story into a great story:


  • Metaphors
  • Emotion
  • Realism
  • Surprise
  • Style
  • How to put your audience into your story.


As might be expected, the book also includes many stories. According to the book’s introduction, some of these stories “are ready-to-tell stories that can be retold, as they are written, by anyone when the situation calls for it.” Other stories “are intended as a springboard to provide inspiration for creating your own similar stories.” Many of the stories in the book can serve both purposes, and all of the stories teach critical leadership lessons.


The chapters within Lead With A Story are grouped into five leadership themes:


  • Envision success
  • Create an Environment for winning
  • Energize the team
  • Educate people
  • Empower others


There are also two templates in the appendix to help readers when crafting their own stories.


Chapter one, titled “Why tell stories?” starts with a great quotation that sums up the importance of this book:


“Every great leader is a great storyteller.”

– Howard Gardner, Harvard psychologist


I encourage you to purchase the book and join the journey as we discuss key elements, examples and advice from Lead With A Story over the next few weeks. I’m ready to learn, are you?



NielsenCopyright © 2013 by Dan Nielsen –

National Institute for Healthcare Leadership –

America’s Healthcare Leaders –

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