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What’s The Story? Why Personal Narrative Matters in Leadership


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On Tuesday, April 4th in New York City, Best-Selling Author, Emma McLaughlin, and trail blazing CEO, Jolie Hunt, captivated an audience of over sixty attendees as they sat down for a candid discussion on leadership narrative at the British American Business Women’s Forum, hosted by HSBC.  In today’s environment, which is increasingly inundated with new mediums and digital touchpoints, they both emphasized the importance of articulating your message clearly and quickly to ensure continuity and impact.

Hunt discussed the difficulties she faced as a young female leader holding a very senior role and the affront of dealing with other people’s unconscious biases, including assumptions that she was an administrative assistant or that she only received the position due to nepotism.  Through it all, she emphasized that you have to be willing to prove them wrong through your output and that along the way you will collect stories and find people who advocate for you, helping you to clarify your narrative.

Managing your leadership narrative is similar to crafting a brand experience. Imagine the fleeting touchpoints you have with your manager; a two-hour meeting that gets cut down to twenty minutes, an e-mail describing the progress of your latest project, a brief interaction in the kitchen getting coffee. These are small opportunities that have big impact when you raise awareness by consistently delivering the message of your narrative.

As the discussion opened up to questions from the audience, one young female leader asked about the importance of leadership narrative from a business perspective.  McLaughlin swiftly responded that companies have many silent runners- high performers that may be overlooked for promotion year after year, seemingly happy with getting the job done.  These people are invaluable to an organization’s productivity, with high costs to replace and retrain.  If they are not equipped with understanding the importance in creating a narrative and sharing it with key stakeholders, they may, at best, remain untapped potential and, at worst, get fed up and leave the organization.

As the event came to a close, Hunt and McLaughlin left the audience with sage advice.  “There are no cakes.” While it sounds light-hearted it means that when you enter a corporate environment, you have to realize that it is not about you.  If you want to change the conversation, then you need to understand your leadership narrative to connect with your stakeholders.

Charlee Newman

Analyst, Client Partnerships



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