The Key to Successful Leadership Storytelling

Maggie Sun
2 min readApr 24


Leadership can take different forms in different contexts, and leaders can be formal managers with authoritative power or informal influencers without management titles.

No matter what type of leader you are, you want to have people listen to you attentively (not perfunctorily) and take actions following your words willingly (not reluctantly). One of the most effective ways to achieve that is through successful storytelling. Why? It’s explained by neuroscience that our brains may produce “stress hormone” cortisol or “love hormone” oxytocin when we hear stories, both helping us focus our attention; consequently, information delivered in a story can not only be up to 20 times more memorable, but also lead to action.

So, what makes a great story? A checklist of the key points is provided hereunder.

Story design

· Purpose: What’s the point of the story? To inspire, motivate, challenge, trigger action, or persuade…?

· Know the audience: Who are they? What are their expectations? Imagine how they would react to the story.

· Narrative arc: Develop a plot with a challenge, suspense, climax, resolution, and solution.

· Facts + Emotions: Mix facts and numbers with feelings and perceptions.

· Characterization: Flesh out characters whom the audience can relate to and develop empathy with.

· Use the 5 senses (optional).

· Use metaphors (optional).

Story delivery

· Add pauses to increase suspense and allow your audience time to digest.

· Use body language to enhance your message.

· Observe, listen and probe to keep in tune with your audience.

· Be concise and leave some space for imagination.


You need to practice all the time while making it a habit to

· collect stories in every way you can,

· dissect the stories to understand why they are good or bad to draw lessons from them,

· and seek feedback every time after you tell a story.


Collet, B. (2022, May 11). How Storytelling Can Boost Your Leadership When It’s Time to Engage and Inspire. Agile Leader Academy.

Choy, E. (2020, Feb. 9). Why Is Leadership Storytelling So Powerful? Forbes.

Related articles and book:

Storytelling — Agile Management Hack №3

Agile Leadership Explained: We Can All Be Agile Leaders and Change the World Together! (Kobo)

Agile Leadership Explained: We Can All Be Agile Leaders and Change the World Together! (Amazon)

Collet, B. (2019). Agile leadership. (Online course).



Maggie Sun

MBA, certified agile coach and experienced strategy analyst, specializing in business agility, agile leadership, Beyond Budgeting, and general management.