Book Review                                     Online Exclusive

Lead With a Story

A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire

by Paul Smith, AMACOM, New York, N.Y., 2012, 288 pp., $24.95 hardcover


In this book, Paul Smith provides over one hundred stories to illustrate his belief that “an organizational culture is defined by the behavior of its members and reinforced by the stories they tell.” Smith contends these stories are “more powerful than any corporate edict, policy statement or speech from the CEO.”

The most effective stories in the book are based on true experiences, many from Smith’s 19 years as director of consumer and communications research at Proctor & Gamble, while other stories are apocryphal stories or folk tales that fit specific leadership scenarios. Smith cautions the storyteller to remember that “you’re a business leader, not a comedian. You don’t have license to just make stuff up.” Smith says that “the most powerful character you could ever choose for a story is you.” The stories told in the book demonstrate the vision, morals, standards and humanity of the leaders who tell the stories.

Smith begins by giving 10 reasons why storytelling is effective and includes a chapter on how to structure a story that will help readers craft their own experiences into meaningful stories.

Most of the book details how to address organizational challenges using stories. Each chapter features a summary and exercises to address specific challenges. In conclusion, Smith connects everything in a four-page chart listing the challenges and purposes for using each story in the book. Although this is a book aimed at business leaders, I see many ways to build on the ideas as an educational leader.

Reviewed by Bob Schultz, adjunct instructor, Brandman University, Roseville, Calif.


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