What's Your Story? 3 Reasons Leaders Should Tell Their Stories

photo credit: Chris Blakeley via photopin cc
Everyone has a story about how one came to be in his or her profession. As leaders, our stories are apart of us and help shape our choices and influence our decisions. But have you ever told your team your story? Don't think you have a story worth telling? I challenge you to reconsider. Leaders should tell their stories to their teams in order to harness 3 benefits.

I was reading the latest issue of Inc Magazine about how several companies got their start. The writer, Adam Bluestein, suggests that every company should have a well crafted founder's story to help connect your business with investors, employees, and customers.

Sara Blakely cut the feet off a pair of pantyhose and came up with the idea for Spanx.

Jerry Murrell's mother told him one day that if he didn't study, he'd be flipping burgers. He never forgot that and when his sons expressed no interest in going to college, they opened Five Guys.

A Columbian aerobic's instructor forgot to bring his traditional aerobic's music to class one day. Instead of cancelling class, he made up dances to his favorite songs that he has on his personal device. That is how Zumba Fitness was born.

Every successful company has a founding story. When you are starting out, the only thing you have is your "passionate why"? Your "passionate why" is the reason you are pursuing what you are doing.

Even if you don't own a company, as a leader, you still need to have and craft your "passionate why" and then tell your people.

How to start writing your story

When crafting your story or your "passionate why" think about these question

  • What life experience(s) has prepared to do what I am doing?
  • Why am I in this line of work?
  • What world changing impact do I hope to leave as result of my work?

3 Reason You Should Tell Your Story to Your People

Let's be honest. We all have had leaders who either are or seem to be unapproachable. We see them in passing but we never really get to know them. As a leader, you are in a perfect position to change that and telling your story or laying out your "passionate why" is an easy way for people to get to know you.

1. It Humanizes You.

As a kid, I remember the first time I saw my teacher, Ms. Dunston, at the movie theater. I was literally shocked. I thought:  She is my teacher. She doesn't have...a real life. I was so used to seeing my teacher in her role as teacher that it never occurred to me that she was a real person.

Leaders are people. But sometimes our titles can make our people think we are inaccessible. Telling your story of how you struggled, the mistakes you make, the fears you overcame, and the issues you are still working on erases the cloudiness and allows people to see the real you. This relaxes them to a degree that may be willing to take those risks you have been encouraging.

2. It Builds Trust. 

Your team is looking for ways to connect with you. They are looking for commonalities. When you tell your story, you are showing your team a vulnerable side of you. When you extend vulnerability, you are extending trust. When you extend trust, you are showing that you can be trusted. Think of it this way, the act of extending your hand to shake another's automatically prompts them to extend their hand to meet yours. As leaders, it is your responsibility to initiate trust. Telling your story is one way of doing that.

3. It Motivates. 

I fell in love with communication skills development because of mentor's founder's story. She was a stay at home mom whose daughter was asked to study competitive gymnastics. Not knowing what that meant, in detail, she began visiting the competitive gyms in her city to see how the kids were taught. What she saw broke her heart. She saw kids being belittled, embarrassed, and disrespected. She decided she wasn't going to submit her child to that relationally toxic environment. So she started a gym with the sole purpose to treat kids, and adults, with respect, value and worth. She used communication skills to do it and it changed an industry. After working in organizations, where the people are treated like disposable rags, I immediately understood my boss's motivation. and worked diligently to further the mission. Your story could do the same for your employees.

"...the origin story can serve as both a road map and moral compass. Keeping that story alive, keeping it true, and keeping it relevant--these are the challenges more mature businesses must contend with."  ~Adam Bluestein

Sharing your story is powerful yet simple tool you can use to encourage the performance and growth you want to see among your people. Wouldn't it be cool to get their stories too? With this information there are no limits on where an organization can go.

So what's your story?

I'll share mine in the next post.


  1. Julia, this is really interesting. You already know mine:) Looking far for yours!!

    I believe stories are inspiring for both the writer and the reader. Telling mine was liberating and gave me a lot of courage. Having that security and being crystal clear certainly helps on becoming a good leader.

    Have a great day.


    ps: You should have Leo weigh on this and maybe have his story. I do not know it but feels it's a motivational one!!

  2. Julia,

    This is a great post! I know how profound the impact can be when you share you story with others, having done it with the guys I lived with in college and it definitely set the tone for our time together. I can't even imagine the impact it might have to share that story with employees.

    I'm definitely going to keep this in mind for if I ever start my own business or have people working alongside/with/under me! Thanks for the encouragement and idea!

  3. Something is wrong with me. I can't figure out how to leave a new comment so I'll just reply here.

    So you want to know my story huh?

    Well, ok...

    My passion for leadership stems from my early childhood. I wanted to and was a leader before I even knew what leadership is.

    Ever since I can remember I've always wanted to help people and to see them succeed. I'd volunteer at the local senior center, at the school, at the church, and at local events. All because I wanted to serve other people.

    It wasn't until I joined the military that I began to truly understand leadership, even though I had been doing it unconsciously for all of my previous years. The passion to study it deeper only grew throughout time as I learned I could have a much bigger impact with the more I learned along the way. I think I always knew what I wanted to do, but then I started learning how to better apply what it is I was so passionate about. Serving.

    Now days I'm still as excited to serve as I have ever been. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to continue giving and to be able to reach out and share the message of servant leadership with those who so desire to hear it.

    I shall forever be a leader worth following.

  4. Excellent! Sharing a story is really what helps people to see why you do what you do. Without the story, most people just seem to have fallen into a role or company, when in actuality there is a very specific reason for why it's *this* company or *this* project. Everyone has one, we are just not usually asked about it. That's what I like to do, and that's what I've found people can really connect with.

  5. See? I knew it. Amazing!!
    It feels so good to discover that your passion is what you have unconsciously been doing for your whole live.
    You certainly feel like a great leader and the way you refer to the subject speaks for itself on how much effort, time and emphasis you put on it.
    Very well done!!

    Thanks a lot. Keep it up!!


  6. It is!! Feels really good to be able to focus on work again.

    See you around...I'm watching and reading y'all:)

  7. Thank you Diego, much appreciated. Hope all has been well with you.

  8. Dustin, thanks for commenting. You never know what adversities one has had to overcome to be in the present. When we are brave enough to share both our wins and our losses it brings us together. I love the power of a story too!

  9. You bring up a great point about not being asked about it. You are right not many are asked and even fewer volunteer it which is why when a leader strategically places being transparent in his or her repertoire, it has such amazing results.

  10. Hey Daniel,
    Thanks for commenting. Keep it in mind when you become a leader. But keep in mind when you are working side by side with co-workers on a project. We get so task oriented that we forget there are people working along side us to accomplish the task. Asking for their story is a great teambuilding activity too.

  11. You have been doing your passion you whole life. but never knew it. I wrote a speech for my Toastmasters group called Your Passion is Waiting for You to Discover It. The premise of the speech was that finding passion isn't hard. It takes one to be observant. Your passion isn't some external thing you have to hunt for like Indiana Jones. No. It is already inside you waiting for you to discover or unearth it.

    Thanks for sharing Leo!