the ceo magazine, leadership,
Brian M. Harman & Stephanie M. Taglianetti, Authors, Learn, Laugh, Lead: How to Avoid a Huge Leadersh*t

Cultivating a generation of future-proof leaders.

This generation understands the impact of storytelling. They are aware of the emotional connection and content structure that drives meaning, impact and action into everything that they do. Stories and laughter are fundamental to gaining higher social power, but how can you apply this philosophy in everyday business? These are the key insights you will learn in our new book, Learn, Laugh, Lead: How to Avoid a Huge Leadersh*t.

Whether you’re on the Board of Executives or working your way up the chain of command, people have influenced you along the way. It is true that we initially learn to lead by example. We observe the behaviors of those who influence us and make judgments on whether or not the behaviors they exhibit are good or bad, or have a place in our own leadership toolbelt. But what separates the good from the bad or the good from the great?

As Jeff DeFranco, College President in Lake Tahoe, recalls on his years of leadership, he declares, “every leader is one leadershit away from a career-killing moment. It’s necessary to know how to spot one before it sneaks up on you.” Leaders like Jeff are asking the tough questions. “Is my leadership improving the community or am I squandering my moments of influence?”

The behaviors the best leaders exhibit are learned, observed and harnessed. But to cultivate the next generation of future-proof leaders, we need to go beyond the trend of observation and start with our own self-leadership.

Learn from the Past: Storytelling

We asked several business entrepreneurs, "What's the most important quality a leader must have?" Above strategic planning, social influence, listening, and feedback, trust ranked supreme.

Leaders establish trust through credibility, care, communication and giving. And storytelling is how they communicate these behaviors. Storytelling is the language of leaders. In fact, some of the best leaders throughout history also happen to be the best storytellers. We will never forget Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” or Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech because they elicited an emotional response within us.

People aren’t compelled by facts alone. They don’t make decisions based on facts alone. In a moment of influence, leaders often communicate their lessons with brief statements like, “There’s no ‘I’ in team,” or “Always give 110%.” But that’s not how you inspire people. In order to inspire, you must create an emotional connection.

People make decisions based on their emotions, and we establish trust through our honesty, vulnerability and humor. Think about this: do you laugh around people you don’t like? No. They are predators threatening your state of mind. On the contrary, people that make you laugh are given your trust. Even in a psychological sense. When you laugh, you raise your chin high and chuckle, exposing your neck. This exposure is like a mental handshake thats says, “we’re cool.”

Even the most basic storytelling techniques and exercises can help you develop your personal story so that you can communicate insightful messages at your moments of influence.

Laugh in the Now: Self-control and Optimism

Did you know that aside from being a great leader and storyteller, Abraham Lincoln was also a humorist? He often prefaced important discussions with a joke or fun story. Because he knew the value of laughter.

The best comedians tell jokes that we can relate to, and humor is a form of communication that manifests trust in others. Trust is at the core of laughter. When we laugh, we trust someone enough to laugh with them. But this is not as simple as saying, “to be a successful leader you must be a funny leader.” There are principles underlying humor that every leader must manufacture: vulnerability and honesty. The ability to laugh simply reflects less resistance to vulnerability.

You must acknowledge your resistance to vulnerability or to the things that make you uncomfortable. And ultimately you must acknowledge your resistance to change. You have to recognize everything that is within your self-control to generate change.

Generating change means planning for the future. Identifying the aspects of your current state that aren’t working help you move towards change. And to enact change, you can turn future expectations into written goals. Writing down your goals increases your propensity to achieve them and helps you optimise the way you spend your time.

Grit and Growth. Lead the Future:

The continuous journey of self-improvement keeps us wanting more. The next step is to learn from the best of our peers. Across the board, the leaders interviewed in our book have shown that true grit, trust and observation are key factors to success. Surround yourself with your “super tribe” if you want a chance at success.

Ask yourself the tough questions. Develop your personal story to connect with people while you convey your message. There’s no such thing as a “natural born leader.” Great leadership takes a lot of work. The best leadership is centrifugal, and begins with self-leadership. It requires emotional intelligence, self-control and awareness. 


About the Authors

Brian M Harman, MBA, PhD student, is an American businessman that has been working in corporate leadership and supply chain management since 2005. He has studied global finance, leadership, and management sciences at the University of Oxford and Pepperdine University, earning his MBA degree from Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business and Management. He is currently completing his PhD dissertation in Global Leadership and Change.

Stephanie M. Taglianetti, MFA,  is a versatile writer, artist, performer, and educator who values interdisciplinary collaboration. She received her master's degree in Writing from the California Institute of the Arts. Her work is highly performative and crosses many different genres, including  screenwriting, playwriting, creative nonfiction and poetry. She wrote/directed a musical for the Los Angeles Unified School District, has lead creative writing workshops throughout Los Angeles and performs regularly as an artist/musician.


Follow The Blog

   Email * 
Subscribe to Syndicate

Blog Categories

Blog Authors