Leadership Narrative.

Leadership Narrative.

To find your own personal leadership narrative, figure out and share what great leadership means to you.Great leaders build amazing communities. They do so in a variety of ways and over an extended period of time. One of the most effective tools to accomplish that is to shape and articulate powerful narratives of what’s possible. Effective leaders share stories about what great leadership looks and feels like when individuals come together as teams, and teams come together as communities, with a unifying sense of purpose and collective ambition. This insight has emerged from both survey data and dozens of C-suite-level interviews as part of a major global study, Future of Leadership in the Digital Economy, that MIT Sloan Management Review is conducting with Cognizant. In this new world of work, where being connected and resilient are of paramount importance, 82% of our global survey respondents and virtually all of those interviewed indicated that an individual in the digital world would need a certain level of digital savviness to be an effective leader. Yet, when asked what skill or behavior was the most important to leadership effectiveness, the answer was being able to articulate a clear sense of purpose, vision, and strategy. What at first seems old is new again: Clarity of communication in a hyper-speed world is a key difference maker in the eyes of current managers and leaders from around the world.To gain a better feeling of the texture that forms the fabric of this insight, consider this comment from Susan Sobbott, former president of American Express Global Commercial Services: “In the digital economy, physical presence can’t be mandatory to be an effective leader. You have to be able to lead people from many different cultures, in many different locations, and often with imperfect information because things are moving so fast,” she says. Her simple and elegant solution to this decades-old challenge reflects the power of a clear leadership narrative. “You have to be able to see a story emerging and to articulate that story in a way that has meaning and inspiration for a wide range of people. You have to convey your passion and beliefs through a powerful narrative.”

Why Finding Your Leadership Narrative Is Important

We analyzed our survey responses from more than 120 countries and conducted a sentiment analysis and heat-mapping exercise to identify the most important leadership behaviors in this new economy. The traits that emerged were authenticity, transparency, trust, inspiration, the ability to connect and invest in others, analytical capability, curiosity, and courage, among others. Few would argue that these behaviors and attributes are necessary, yet by themselves, standing independently, without the context needed to create meaning or catalyze change, they run the risk of being considered buzzwords. Stories help prevent that from happening, and that’s where the power of creating your leadership narrative comes into play. Developing a powerful narrative demands that you, the leader, take a stand on what you believe in, what you are about, and what impact you hope to create as you set out to form teams and build communities. The leader behaviors and attributes listed earlier become your means of communicating to others who you are, as well as your expectations for others concerning how you will lead together in your organization. It’s about finding and sharing your voice.In a recent interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, late-night comedian Stephen Colbert talked about his search to “find his show.” For months his show struggled in the ratings, not because it lacked comedic appeal or impact, but because it had no thesis or arc that held it together. Once he and his writing team took a stand on what they believed in and followed through on those beliefs transparently, authentically, and courageously, Colbert believes they found their show, and since then he has commanded the No. 1 slot in the ratings. To find your personal leadership narrative, you need to figure out what great leadership means to you. David Schmittlein, dean of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, made a similar point while being interviewed for this study. “A great leader must be willing and able to display the courage it sometimes takes to stand by well-founded convictions — to take a stand on a decision that may be unpopular,” Schmittlein states. “It is about finding your narrative — what you believe in — and not being a willow in the wind. A well-thought-out leadership narrative helps create meaning and motivation for others.”

Getting Started: Finding Your Leadership Narrative

I spend a good deal of my time coaching senior executives to shape and tell their leadership stories in leader-led development initiatives around the world. When crafted well, and integrated with important conceptual content, engaging senior leaders to share their perspectives can be a powerful learning experience. Years ago, I was coaching a vice-chairman of a large global financial services company to share his story on what it meant to be a great leader in a changing world. He looked at me, almost with a sense of embarrassment, and said, “I’ve been in leadership roles for 35 years, and this is the first time I have ever been asked to share what I actually believe to be the essential ingredients of great leadership.” My response: “Well then, let’s get started!”Follow these simple steps to find your leadership narrative:

  1. No matter how busy you are, how many deadlines you are facing, or how many people are vying for your time, give yourself permission to reflect on what being a great leader means to you. Don’t think about it for five minutes and consider the job done. Take a day or chunks of several days away from the office to seriously reflect on this. After you do that, write those thoughts down as a draft narrative. It might start out as a series of bullet points, and that’s completely fine to get you started. But make sure it begins to take shape as a story.
  2. Share your draft narrative with one person, or several people, you trust. By trust, I mean that you trust that they will be honest with you concerning how authentic your narrative feels. Does the narrative describe you? Have they seen you behave this way over time? Have they witnessed you trying to cultivate those behaviors in others? You are trying to discover whether you are an authentic role model for your own narrative.
  3. When your narrative is refined enough, try it out. Tell your story transparently and with authenticity. Your leadership narrative should not be seen as a war story, simply recounting something you did. Work on it so that others can learn from it. At the right time and with the right people, seek feedback on the impact your narrative is having and ask how your story can have greater impact.

How we work is changing, but why we work and what we hope to achieve through our work remain largely the same. We want to be part of something larger, something special, something that helps make this world we live in a better place. Your leadership narrative can motivate others in important ways. Finding your narrative — one that expresses authentically, transparently, and courageously what you believe in as a leader, what you are about, and indeed what you are willing to fight for — will let you begin to unite individuals into teams, and teams into amazing communities.

About the Author

LDouglas A. Ready is a senior lecturer in organizational effectiveness at the MIT Sloan School of Management, founder and CEO of the International Consortium for Executive Development Research, and MIT SMR guest editor. He tweets @doug_ready.

Rentless repetition.

Rentless repetition.

A story from Microsoft.

Over the last five years or so, I’ve had the chance to work on lots of different types of communication both inside and outside of Microsoft. It’s been a brilliant journey, watching how communications, when done well, can affect the culture of a company so positively. Often I’m asked what lessons I have learned on this journey. One of them I would say for sure is the power of visual communications – in particular photography. Yet, the most important lesson I think I (and others) have learned is the power of relentless repetition.When communicating, either in written form or especially verbally, it can become tiring very quickly to repeat yourself. You hear or read yourself saying the same thing over and over and begin to assume that everyone has heard what you have said once you have said it more than ten times. Of course, there is merit in saying something new or unique but there are also times when repetition is your friend. Where I have seen it work powerfully has been with our mission statement at Microsoft and the language we use around culture. These things get a lot of cynical sideways glances when you first see them and though we worked hard to come up with our mission statement – “to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more” – there was inevitably some cynicism. People asked how long it’d last, they asked why those words were chosen and not others, they asked if it was as a good as the original mission statement (I think it’s better). I believe one of the big things that chipped away at that cynicism was relentless repetition – in particular by our CEO, Satya Nadella. Over 5 years into his tenure as CEO, the mission statement is still here and by my count, I’d guess I have seen Satya speak well over 300 times at different events, internally and externally. He has started with the mission statement at every single one of them. That’s a hard thing to do – and incredibly powerful. It makes things stick. It ensures people know you believe in those words.Relentless repetition. Relentless. Repetition.

By Steve Clayton – Chief Storyteller for Microsoft
Everyone has a story to tell.

Everyone has a story to tell.

Every person on this planet has a story to tell, something that makes them unique, adding to the whole.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that everyone has a story to tell if we take the time to listen. We are so accustomed to hearing the stories of people in the news that we sometimes lose track of the fact that the random stranger on the bus also has a fascinating story about where they came from and how they got to be where they are. The sheer variety of paths taken in this world, from farmers to CEOs to homeless people to world travelers, is indicative of how much we can learn from each individual. Sometimes the shy, quiet person at work has the most amazing life story and the biggest dreams, it is up to us to take the time to find out. 

Some people travel a path of wealth and privilege, while others struggle with only themselves to rely on, and both have great stories to tell. Each person learns lessons, makes choices, and develops a unique perspective, which only they can claim and share. Even two people who have had very similar lives will have slightly different experiences, leading them to a different point of view, so each person remains a treasure trove waiting to be explored. When we take the time to ask questions and listen, we find that every person has a fascinating story to tell and an utterly unique perspective from which to tell it. 

Bearing this in mind, we have the opportunity to approach the world around us in a new way. There is never any reason to be bored at a party, or on the bus, or in a conversation with a stranger. When we retain the spark of curiosity and the warmth required to open someone up, we always have in front of us the makings of a great story. All we have to do is ask.
Helena Herrero portrayed in Latinarrific!

Helena Herrero portrayed in Latinarrific!


This compassionately cosmic female force is an accomplished business and personal transformation expert.

#helenaherreroideasgenerators    #ideasgenerators   #peopleforward.blog


Helena Herrero has seen “The Wall” (the 1982, Roger Waters film) over a dozen times. During our recent conversation I felt as though I’d been transported into Carlos Castaneda’s non-fiction classic; “Journey to Ixtlan”.

And while Helena is compassionately cosmic, she is also profoundly grounded, so much so that she has “coached top executives in business and career transitions, overseen the Human Capital Strategy for different businesses in alignment with overall business intent and specific culture and financial metrics, and has been a catalyst in organization design and transformation in related to mergers, acquisitions and divestitures.

Simply put, Helena Herrero cuts a dashing dichotomy—moving seamlessly from the metaphysical to the practical.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1960 (the eldest of five siblings), Helena refers to her father, Nino, as a Renaissance-Man—a thought leader, a writer, an artist, and major-domo in human resources, strategic planning and government relations. She proudly boasts that her mother (and namesake) was the first from her family to receive a formal education. Mom would go on to become a principal at several local elementary schools.

It just wouldn’t be right not to mention Amelia (or Bel as her grandkids fondly called her), another key figure in Helena’s upbringing, her paternal grandmother.


I speak my mind and say what I mean!”

“My father was a complex, bright man who embodied strong intellectual and professional influences of my life, while my mother represented and impacted my deeper inner soul. As for ‘Bel’ she was simply one tough cookie—a reference for strength and determination!

“And what can I say about my siblings! While we are all very different, we are close knit—especially since the passing of our parents. We celebrate and honor mom and dad by this filial bonding and have each of us, passed this legacy on to our sons and daughters.”

The attempted censorship of the spirited lass when she was a mere 15-year old high school student had a profound impact on Helena’s moral fiber and future mien.

“I was enrolled at a Catholic school. During a religion class discussing Martin Luther’s break from the church, I defended Martin Luther and his Protestant Reformation—blaming the Roman Catholic Church for the schism.”

Needless to say the shocked Nun/instructor sent the provocateur student to the Principal’s office, where Helena was promptly reprimanded. The imbroglio led to a family sit-down with the Principal. But prior to that fateful gathering, Helena’s father assured his spirited daughter that she was ‘entitled to her opinion’ and that she ought to speak her mind and further, that he had her back!

That experience—the fearlessness of her father’s conviction of standing up for her beliefs, remained with Helena and in fact, motivated and guided her—a lesson she would translate into her professional and personal life.

“I speak my mind and say what I mean!” She says proudly…

After high-school Helena had sites on college and a degree in either education or psychology. Her father, however, suggested business. It was a dangerous and treacherous time in Argentina—the Dirty War, military coups—Father and daughter struck a deal! “He agreed to my field of study and I agreed to the school of his choice (the private, Universidad de Belgrano—located in Buenos Aires). The college experience—the mingling of minds, the variety of people, and the intellectual impetus— all helped to invigorate and liberate the young scholar’s personal transformation.

Helena received a degree in Psychology and soon went to do clinic work.

As fate would have it, at just that time, her father was stepping down from his job at IDEA (Institute for the Development of Executives in Argentina). Advised, by her father, of a potential opening, the independent spirited Helena applied and was hired.

“I began working as part of the team coordinating the Young Professionals Program, aiding in career enhancement, profile expansion and transformation—both organizational and personal.”

{In an ironic moment, at this point in our interview, Helena realized that IDEA was not so far off from IDEAS Generators, the company founded by her (current) husband Eduardo and the company in which she currently works}.

In 1987 Helena married for the first time, but it didn’t last, a divorce was finalized a mere two  years later.

Ultimately, feeling she’d done all she could with IDEA, the soul-seeker was hired as a Human Resources executive for a major global financial institution.

Helena married Eduardo in 1994. The following year she gave birth to their first son Nicolas. In 1998 their second son Alex was born.

In 2002 the family moved to SoFlo (Helena being promoted by the aforementioned financial institution).

“While it was a bit of a culture shock, we were determined to maintain our Latin heritage while melding and blending with the ways of our new country.”

Frankly, Helena had had some practice in the art of co-mingling cultures. She, a Roman Catholic, had married Eduardo, a Jew. The concept of tolerance, understanding and adaptation was something she had already experienced, and in fact embraced.

“We were thrilled at the opportunity to participate in this new layer of multiculturalism…”

Helena’s mother passed in 2013 (her father a few years later), but a funny thing happened on the way to a jazz concert in New York City on the first anniversary of her mother’s death.

As Helena walked to the show, she confided to her girlfriend that she was missing something —lacking a greater meaning in life—and voila, as if mom gave her the nudge, Helena had her epiphany. She would start a mature search for meaning—one which eventually led her to leave the corporate life and immerse herself in people and organizational transformation—including yoga! She felt it finally was time to fine-tune the body, mind and soul and become a human centered being.

In 2016 Helena’s ever soul-searching sojourn seemed to congeal. Her study of Mindfulness and Buddhism, the aforementioned yoga certification, and a deep understanding of her own human condition found her joining up with Eduardo at Ideas Generators, where she launched her People Strategy practice—an organic evolution from Ideas Generators’ branding practice, “Because, at the end, what are people working in an organization other than brand ambassadors!

“My focus is the integration and convergence of Design Thinking, Digital Disruption and Applied Neuroscience, and its impact in Culture and Leadership Capabilities to foster organization’s transformation to their upmost potential.”

Helena is launching with two dear colleagues—sister souls in the path to personal discovery, Chrysalis Path—a journey of self-transformation, with the purpose to share with others the joy of inner self-realization.

Latinarrifc salutes Helena Herrero…

The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains

The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains

A good story can make or break a presentation, article, or conversation. But why is that? When Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich started to market his product through stories instead of benefits and bullet points, sign-ups went through the roof. Here he shares the science of why storytelling is so uniquely powerful.

In 1748, the British politician and aristocrat John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, spent a lot of his free time playing cards. He greatly enjoyed eating a snack while still keeping one hand free for the cards. So he came up with the idea to eat beef between slices of toast, which would allow him to finally eat and play cards at the same time. Eating his newly invented “sandwich,” the name for two slices of bread with meat in between, became one of the most popular meal inventions in the western world.

What’s interesting about this is that you are very likely to never forget the story of who invented the sandwich ever again. Or at least, much less likely to do so, if it would have been presented to us in bullet points or other purely information-based form.

For over 27,000 years, since the first cave paintings were discovered, telling stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods. Recently a good friend of mine gave me an introduction to the power of storytelling, and I wanted to learn more.

Here is the science around storytelling and how we can use it to make better decisions every day:

We all enjoy a good story, whether it’s a novel, a movie, or simply something one of our friends is explaining to us. But why do we feel so much more engaged when we hear a narrative about events?

It’s in fact quite simple. If we listen to a powerpoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens.

When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.

If someone tells us about how delicious certain foods were, our sensory cortex lights up. If it’s about motion, our motor cortex gets active:

“Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” roused the sensory cortex. […] Then, the brains of participants were scanned as they read sentences like “John grasped the object” and “Pablo kicked the ball.” The scans revealed activity in the motor cortex, which coordinates the body’s movements.”

A story can put your whole brain to work. And yet, it gets better:

When we tell stories to others that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on them too. The brains of the person telling a story and listening to it can synchronize, says Uri Hasson from Princeton:

“When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized. When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.”

Anything you’ve experienced, you can get others to experience the same. Or at least, get their brain areas that you’ve activated that way, active too:

Evolution has wired our brains for storytelling—how to make use of it

Now all this is interesting. We know that we can activate our brains better if we listen to stories. The still unanswered question is: Why is that? Why does the format of a story, where events unfold one after the other, have such a profound impact on our learning?

The simple answer is this: We are wired that way. A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think. We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home. We make up (short) stories in our heads for every action and conversation. In fact, Jeremy Hsu found [that] “personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.”

Now, whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our existing experiences. That’s why metaphors work so well with us. While we are busy searching for a similar experience in our brains, we activate a part called insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, or disgust.

The following graphic probably describes it best:

In a great experiment, John Bargh at Yale found the following:

“Volunteers would meet one of the experimenters, believing that they would be starting the experiment shortly. In reality, the experiment began when the experimenter, seemingly struggling with an armful of folders, asks the volunteer to briefly hold their coffee. As the key experimental manipulation, the coffee was either hot or iced. Subjects then read a description of some individual, and those who had held the warmer cup tended to rate the individual as having a warmer personality, with no change in ratings of other attributes.”

We link up metaphors and literal happenings automatically. Everything in our brain is looking for the cause and effect relationship of something we’ve previously experienced.

Let’s dig into some hands on tips to make use of it:

Exchange giving suggestions for telling stories
Do you know the feeling when a good friend tells you a story and then two weeks later, you mention the same story to him, as if it was your idea? This is totally normal and at the same time, one of the most powerful ways to get people on board with your ideas and thoughts. According to Uri Hasson from Princeton, a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.

The next time you struggle with getting people on board with your projects and ideas, simply tell them a story, where the outcome is that doing what you had in mind is the best thing to do.

Write more persuasively—bring in stories from yourself or an expert
The simple story is more successful than the complicated one
Using simple language as well as low complexity is the best way to activate the brain regions that make us truly relate to the happenings of a story. This is a similar reason why multitasking is so hard for us. Try for example to reduce the number of adjectives or complicated nouns in a presentation or article and exchange them with more simple, yet heartfelt language.

Start including storytelling as a Leadership Practice! Coming soon: the Leader as a Storyteller.