Great Leaders Tell Great Stories

Great Leaders Tell Great Stories

At a career fair in October, keynote speaker and CEO of Proctor & Gamble, Bob McDonald said, “Great leaders tell great stories. And they have a lot of them on hand.” 

Mr. McDonald spent the rest of his speech telling numerous anecdotes in order to highlight what he termed his “values-based” system of leadership.

This was prescient advice for a roomful of MBAs vying for the attention of various corporate recruiters attending the career fair. Companies such as Google, GE, Goldman Sachs, and Nike were in attendance. These companies had no shortage of smart, driven people vying for their attention on that day. After standing in line to speak with the corporate representative, I only had a few moments to form an impression that would hopefully result in my resume getting a closer look or a response to my email. How can one successfully accomplish this?

To successfully make an impression, you need to capture your audience’s attention and one way you can do this is by telling a great story. This isn’t something that is easy to do off the top of your head. However, if you sit down and write four sentences about each project, job or achievement in your life, you’ll soon start developing a small arsenal of stories that you can use to articulate your point. Don’t forget to take note of your failures and disappointments in life because those episodes often make the best stories.

Very quickly, you’ll see how these stories help you become a better communicator. They can become the bedrock of your business school applications, resumes, cover letters, and interviews. Later on, after business school, those stories are great tools for successfully persuading clients and coworkers.

Mr. McDonald’s point may seem obvious. However, there is a stark contrast between the stories we tell our friends and the hyperbole that often finds its way into our first draft applications and cover letters. However, when honed for a professional audience, the things we as individuals find important enough to share with our friends will also make positive impressions on those with whom we seek to make a professional connection.