The Power of a Story

I’ll never forget the day the pregnant women went into labor in my manager training class. The class was on its final day of a week’s long training. It was an unusually cold November Friday and we had just returned from lunch. I could tell that the entire group anticipated the completion of the training class and looked forward to a restful weekend. Freda, an obviously very pregnant lady, led a discussion about common qualities of great leaders with the new manager group.

She talked about America’s first General of the Army, George Washington, and how he was appointed to that rank because of the widespread reputation for his honesty. She talked about how the soldiers could believe every word that General Washington said. Freda then went on to say that just like George Washington’s reputation for honesty, organizations with leaders that have a reputation for honestly tend to have great organizations.

I noticed as Freda spoke I caught her touching her stomach and wrinkling her eyes. I thought that Freda had just eaten too much spaghetti at lunch. Freda continued to talk about the qualities of great leaders and quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” She said that great leaders eliminate fear in their organizations and the organizations effectiveness remains high in times of stress.

Freda then asked me for a chair so she could sit down and continue her discussion. She slowly eased herself down with much deliberation and took a deep breath and continued. She asked the group of new managers if they were familiar with the World War II Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill. During the darkest days of the war Mr. Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” She compared Churchill’s quote to an organization’s leader who despite a number of setbacks, maintained his enthusiasm and remarkably passed it on to his people.

Freda smiled and uncomfortably shifted her position in her chair and continued. “And finally,” she said, I want to talk to you about Albert Schweitzer, the great missionary to Africa.” Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Freda said an organization’s leaders must lead by example if they wish to have a great organization.


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