Creative News

Writing a Leader’s Guide to Storytelling

Inspired by more than three and a half decades of his own experience in broadcast media, journalism, PR and communications, Mark Dailey, Partner at Madano, has distilled his expertise into an insightful business guide that explains why the core skill needed by future leaders is authentic and effective communication.

‘A Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Restoring Authenticity in a World of Change’, has been published by Routledge and is now available from Amazon and Waterstones.

You know the cliché about the tyranny of the blank page when you’re faced with writing anything from scratch. Well the thing about clichés is that they are based on truth.

Imagine sitting down to start an entire book – forget tyranny. More like full-blooded revolution.

And yet the idea of writing this book had been building for a while as clients kept asking me to recommend one communications book that pulled everything together in one place – how to present, deal with the media, show empathy, weave in emotion, connect with audiences, show empathy, deal with PowerPoint and get to the point – all the topics I have covered in training and coaching sessions for the past decade. To be honest, I couldn’t think of one book that dealt with everything.

And so when COVID hit, the decision to fire the starting gun on the book was relatively easy. If not now, when would I get another chance like this? The sheer disruption of COVID – and the ‘end of days’ tone adopted by too many journalists – seemed to make everything a bit more urgent. Plus, at 63, you don’t have unlimited time to procrastinate.

I was lucky. Because I had worked in television for over a decade, I was used to writing to deadline.

And I had a built-in framework for what I wanted to do. I would use the structure I follow in most of my communications work – audience, content, and engagement – to set out what good looks like in the beginning part of the book.

But COVID intruded my thoughts again. It seemed to me that the pandemic was accelerating disruptive and fundamental technological change and how people felt about a host of social justice issues. This swirling cauldron of change seemed to me to be ushering in a demonstrably different landscape in which leaders would be communicating. And so the idea of setting the scene and providing a contextual wrapper for what good communication looks like was born.

I revisited some interesting research we had done as a strategic communications agency, back in 2012, looking at the emerging ‘changing communications landscape’ then and updated some key themes and takeaways.

The book began to take shape as I thought about what would be needed from leaders intent on helping their organisations navigate this fast-changing world.

I wanted the book to deliver on the initial premise – which was to provide a guide to what good ‘looks like’. So, I deliberately set this out in some of the most common and important types of communications that all of us face in business: pitching our ideas, presenting, facilitating events or small groups of people, managing team meetings, giving interviews and on to bigger assignments such as driving change and handling crises.

The final ‘missing ingredient’ was that the more I thought about what good looks like – what people regularly say in giving feedback about what they felt was most effective and moving in someone’s communication – the more this equated with what I felt was most needed on the societal front. That is a restoration of authenticity to our communications.

And so in the last part of the book, I tried to articulate what the authentic leader looks like and why these qualities of integrity, compassion, kindness, humility and trust will become even more important as times get more uncertain and change gets faster and more complex. Having become a business coach 10 years ago, I found that the coaching dynamic is probably our best template for what authentic leadership communications looks like.

The book took about six months to write and seven months to edit – and then into production. It contains lots of case studies and observations on the good, bad and ugly that I’ve seen in my 38 years in communications.

Probably the biggest takeaway from the entire book is the idea that the one thing we always fear overdoing – is the one thing audiences crave the most – the off-piste moments when we let our hair down and speak with real emotion and honesty about what is really important. How seldom do we see or hear this and yet it is precisely this kind of meaning that people crave the most.

By Mark Dailey, Partner at Madano. Mark specialises in corporate and strategic communications, media training, facilitation, and transformation/crisis communications. To find out more about how Mark and the Madano team could help you, please get in touch at [email protected].