Are you your own best storyteller?

Become your own Chief Storyteller. Explore how the narratives you craft shape your self-leadership, mindset, and ability to overcome challenges. Transform your inner dialogue for greater success.

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Read time: 4.3 min.

👋🏽 Welcome to Inner Frontiers for Outer Impact, a weekly newsletter that provides self-leadership insights that help you develop 4 key leadership capacities: Mindset, Courage, Resilience, & Innovation.

In today's email:

  • 🗣 Self-Leadership: Exploring the power of your story

  • 🎯 Action: Steps to change your narrative

  • 🤔 Quote: Wisdom from Socrates

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The Power of Narrative in Self-Leadership

Great leaders tend to also be great storytellers.

We’ve seen it depicted many times on the big screen. Leaders take on the role of Chief Storyteller in the midst of a crisis and tap into the power of narrative to meet the needs of their team. What does this have to do with self-leadership? Everything.

Allow me to rewind the clock to make this point.

The Story I Told Myself

When I was a young cadet at West Point, I attended Air Assault School during the summer before my junior year.

Creator: CPT Brett Walker | Credit: U.S. Army | Copyright: Public Domain

This certification qualifies soldiers to conduct airmobile and air assault helicopter operations (e.g. sling load operations; rappelling from buildings, cliffs and helicopters). One key skill you have to demonstrate is the ability to properly inspect and validate sling loads (cargo transported on the underside of a helicopter). I passed the written test, but I was a first-time “No Go” on the hands-on test. I was devastated.

I only missed one small item, but details matter in military operations.‼️

How did I lead myself in that moment of disappointment (and embarrassment)?

Not well. Because of unconscious beliefs I held about myself at that time, I viewed that setback as confirmation that I wasn’t good enough. My internal narrative was scattered and self-critical. It made me more anxious and further eroded my already-shaken confidence.

Bottom line: I was not the leader for myself that I would have been for anybody else.

When I needed to step up to the plate and craft a compelling narrative for myself, I came up short.

Yet, if one of my subordinate cadets or peers had experienced this setback, my leadership style would have offered them encouragement. I would have used the power of story to build up their confidence in their abilities. My leadership would have focused them on the positive possibilities of the future rather than dwelling on the past.

I would have harnessed the power of story to do 3 important things:

  1. Normalize their response to the uncertainty they were confronting

  2. Empower them

  3. Provide them with hope

The delta between how I would have used the power of narrative when leading others versus how I used it with myself that day was stark.

I’ve revisited this experience many times in an effort to continue to improve the stories I tell myself - I will share how you can do this shortly.

You as Chief Storyteller

First, I want to invite you to reflect.

➡️ Think of a setback that you experienced sometime in the past (go back as far as you’d like - I dug WAY back into the vault with my story from my West Point days 🤣).

➡️ Examine the story you told yourself during that experience. What stands out to you about it?

➡️ What might the narrative have looked like if you were leading others through the same challenge?

You likely see a difference between the 2 narratives. Let’s talk about how you bridge the gap. But before we do, let me take you off the edge of your seat 😂: I passed the hands-on test on my 2nd attempt and graduated from Air Assault School. 🎉 

But, I was successful despite how I led myself that day, not because of.

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Changing Your Narrative

How do you bridge the gap?

How might you become the Chief Storyteller of narratives that empower you to lead yourself well?

Enduring change always starts with self-observation. So, spend time observing the stories you tell yourself.

  • Annotate the common themes you discover.

  • Evaluate those stories using the following 3 criteria:

    1. Does this story normalize my response to the uncertainty I am confronting?

    2. Does this story empower me?

    3. Does this story provide me with hope?

As you engage in reflection regarding the stories you have been telling yourself, be proactive about how you craft future ones.

Here are 4 steps to align the storyteller you are when leading others with the storyteller you are when leading yourself:

  1. Invite another person into your story.
    Imagine that you are leading a person or team of people.

  2. Craft the story that you will tell yourself as if you were crafting it to lead them through this moment.

  3. Ensure your story meets the 3 criteria above.

  4. Deliver that story as many times - and with as much conviction - as you would if delivering it to your team.

This approach will help you be more intentional in developing awareness of the stories that you craft.

Over time, reduce the number of people you invite into your story. By the time you are imagining just one other person, you will be more skilled in your role as Chief Storyteller for yourself. Eventually, you won’t need to imagine others present.

The stories you tell yourself reflect your mindset.

Examine those stories to ensure they are empowering you. This is a vital aspect of mindset work. The seeds you sow in Mindset manifest themselves in your capacity for Courage and Resilience. The time you spend exploring who you are as a storyteller when leading yourself pays dividends.

Parting Words of Wisdom

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.


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Until next week,