Leading Blog






12.11.09

Is Your Story Winning Hearts and Minds?

Winning Hearts and Minds

LEADERSHIP is part of a story. Leaders answer the why; they tell the story. Leadership is paradoxical because while leaders must manage the realities, they lead in the ideal. In The Visionary’s Handbook, Watts Wacker and Jim Taylor advise leaders to have the right story—a simple, consistent story that connects the past, present and future. But it needs something more:

It should have some melodrama; some action; climax and resolution; a plot that turns toward the good at the end on the strength of a key virtue; a beginning, middle, and end—all the things that were taught in Literature 101 because in the last analysis a great story must be just that: a great story.

The story has to have its own fictive truth, its own logic, and internal consistency, and it needs to grab listeners not just by the ears and brain but by the bones and deep organs. The more you can practice what Keats and Shakespeare had in such great abundance—“negative capability,” the capacity to exist in mystery and doubt without irritable searching after fact and reason—the more your story will absorb paradox in its own right, and the more that happens, the easier it will be for listeners to find themselves inside your tale.

And the last caveat: The story needs not just the ring of fictive truth; it needs the ring of your own truth, too. It has to come from the heart, not the division of public affairs.

Negative capability is an interesting concept. It was coined by John Keats in a letter to his brothers (George and Tom), dated December 21, 1817. He wrote:

I had not a dispute but a disquisition, with Dilke on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason-Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge.

Keats thought, that one of the qualities of great people is their ability to sublimate their own individual assumptions and persona—that is, to make themselves a negative—and thereby contemplate the world without the desire to try and reconcile contradictory aspects or fit it into closed and rational systems. This requires being a good listener and the ability to say, “I don’t know.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:13 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Communication , Vision



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