When we think of good leadership stories, names like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malala Yousafzai, and Eleanor Roosevelt often come to mind. These leaders have had an undeniable impact on the world.
However, amazing leadership stories also happen in our own lives every day. And while inspiring, the stories of famous leaders can be hard to identify with. What about regular people? What are some good leadership stories you could have been a part of?
For me, the ascent to leadership brings back memories of summer camp. All camp activities, meals, in-cabin experiences, and overall safety depend on (often very young) counselors demonstrating good leadership. Without that, camp doesn’t happen.
I’ve met hundreds of excellent leaders of all ages at camp. You’ve probably met a few former camp counselors in your workplace who learned leadership skills at a camp of their own.
Of course, camp isn’t the only place leadership grows and shows.
If you're looking to learn something, reading story can be one of the best ways to convey information. Stories have the power to bring together seemingly unrelated concepts and insert new perspectives into long-held beliefs. They are able to draw us in with human experiences and personal connections that make difficult concepts easier to understand and grasp.
Stories can be used to show the progression of ideas and concepts to explore. And yet we often overlook examples of stories influencing our decisions and actions.
In marketing, you often see examples of how a narrative can influence buying choices. In education, the use of narrative-based methods is starting to be understood as an important part of learning and retention. And in healthcare, the effectiveness of stories is being proven in reducing stress and providing a sense of comfort for patients.
That's why, to help you become a better leader and manager, this article uses not just advice, but storytelling.
Below, I’ve collected 4 short stories about leadership and management from across industries for your inspiration.
I sat in on a weekly meeting while the boss instructed the attorneys and me about various assignments. I wrote as fast as I could, but I was not familiar with the case and she was talking fast. When I got back to my desk, I was told she needed two other projects before the one she had just assigned.
By the time I got around to that project, my notes made no sense and I didn't have a clue where to begin. Timidly, I went into her office (fearful of what she would have to say) and explained that I didn't recall what she needed. She put her pen down, told me to have a seat and explained everything she needed me to do.
She never batted an eye, never questioned why my notes weren't better, and never made me feel uncomfortable the entire meeting. She was such a great teacher and she taught me a lot about how bosses can make or break an employee's loyalty. I would do anything for her, not just because of that meeting, but because of the way she treated every employee. She treated everyone with respect.
-Rita, Legal Secretary
I once had a boss called Rusty. Rusty was the most unassuming person you'd ever see running an ISP Call Centre in the early 2000's. Rusty wasn't technical at all, having spent 20 years managing a supermarket. However, what Rusty did have was awesome staff management skills.
Every day he'd bring in a cooler full of drinks and snacks for the staff. He kept a lolly jar on his desk full of our favourite sweets, and he always backed us up in front of customers.
Management would often send through directives that Rusty would send on and go "yeah, do whatever they want...unless you think it's wrong...then do whatever you think you should - just keep me informed".
We always got our work done for Rusty because we wanted to keep him around. Eventually he was made redundant when the company got bought out. He’s now the state manager for one of the largest supermarket chains in Australia.
Man I miss Rusty.
I worked for my city’s Parks & Recreation department for a while. My director was amazing. She recognized that I had experience and knowledge that would be really helpful in her department, and always pushed the higher-ups to give me the budget and time to execute on my ideas.
The big ask came when, as my programs grew, I needed more staff. She’d already jumped through a couple hoops to secure me an office assistant, and now I was asking for a bigger field team.
That woman went above and beyond, putting together a whole report on my outcomes and presenting it to the Executive Director in person. I got my staff, and we ran multiple well-reviewed youth programs. Most of them still run today and are in high demand from parents, camps, and schools.
-Shane, Program Manager
This is more of a “learn from bad leadership” story. I have a manager who is seldom present. He is the owner's son and has the ability to ghost at least four the six computers at the workplace from home. While coming in to "do work" isn't always necessary, he seldom even does from home what he's supposed to be doing.
One disgruntled employee made several sabotage attempts, including burning out over $400,000 worth of equipment. When presented with the evidence of the employee's actions, this manager refused to discipline him. The company continues to suffer due to this and other poor decisions.
My lesson here is: be present and do your job.
-Sam, Executive Producer
Clearly, there are many different ways managers can become memorialized in stories about good leadership. How will your team remember your leadership?
And if you learned something from these leadership stories, you might remember the power of story in your next one-on-one meeting or coaching meeting with an employee. Is there feedback you want to give that you really want to stick? Perhaps a short story will do the trick.
One-on-one meetings may be common, but without some care, they’re not always effective.
Learn the secrets to setting up your team for success.