After 80 years of research on leadership we find ourselves with no fewer than 350 definitions of leadership, more than 80,000 books on leadership, and results from thousands of empirical studies conducted in the last 50 years to answer the question, “What is an effective leader?” But we still have not sufficiently defined a shared understanding of the concept. (Bennis 2012, Bennis and Nanus 1985)

Looking outward for guidance on how to lead often results in leaders feeling inadequate to the task, unsure of the most effective next action, or trying to behave in ways that are not consistent with their identities.

Unfortunately, leadership models all have taken-for-granted messages rooted in the external culture. The results have been that we don’t question them or even understand their influences on us. Women and people of color often find themselves at odds with the dominant ideas of leadership or end up performing in ways that cause them to withdraw from bringing their full self to work and set up difficult internal conflicts.

Leading Narratively grounds every exercise and activity in the foundational concepts that leadership is context-dependent, social, and relational. Our approach begins with the belief that leaders’ authentic identities are grounded in a clear understanding of their lives’ influences and events. With guidance on how to excavate, examine, and unpack these experiences, leaders emerge with a deeper sense of their reserve of resources and the power to reject any culturally bound messages that no longer serve them.

Participants use newfound insights into who they are and translate them into methods for better understanding their followers and crafting messaging that connects to all of the groups in their organizations.