Storytelling Can Change the World
True confession. I absolutely love award show season despite the cringey comedian hosts. The glamorous outfits. The presence of powerful women who are using their voices for good. The sparkly, celebratory mood that spills over into my work days the following week.
So, I went to an awards show.
This year, I had the chance to attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival. La di da, right? TBH I considered not going – the tickets are crazy expensive – but wow, wow, wow, was it worth every penny!
Everybody was there. Billie Eilish, Taystee from OITNB, Leslie Uggams, Willem Dafoe, Lenny Kravitz, Emma Stone, Kirsten Dunst, America Ferrera, Margot Robbie, and Greta Gerwig. Ugh. I know. Gratuitous name-dropping. Sorry, not sorry. : )
And then this happened …
I’m just standing there, trying to be cool, as one does in the presence of fame. And Greta Gerwig (who could easily have just walked right by) takes my hands in hers, looks me in the eyes, talks to me, hears my compliments, laughs at my observations, and makes a one-on-one connection … with me!
This was such a big deal. To date, the Barbie® movie has brought in a total of 1.45 billion U.S. dollars worldwide. It was the highest-grossing movie of 2023, the highest-grossing movie directed by a woman ever, the fifteenth biggest release in motion picture history, and Warner Bros.’ highest-grossing film of all time.
And yet, Golden Globes comedian host Jo Koy called it a movie “based on a plastic doll with big boobs.” Ugh.
Can you believe we still have to deal with this?
Greta dealt with all of that and SO much more. She created around, persevered through, and pushed over so many barriers – finding financial backers, negotiating with Mattel – to get that movie made. In doing so, she made a huge impact on women all over the world. She brought Barbie, and all of us, from a fantasy land into the real world.
And she did it … through storytelling.
Stories sway us in our everyday work lives just as powerfully as they do in the movie theater and on TV. Stories engage people not just intellectually but also emotionally. Greta and her whole team did that masterfully in Barbie.
And the themes in Barbie are so BIG. Misogyny, patriarchy, leadership, perseverance, friendship, love, childhood, parenthood … these are huge things. Greta crafted a story that enabled everyone who experienced it to emotionally connect and want to be a part of the incredibly important societal shift that we’re all making happen, despite the Jo Koys of the world doing everything they can to undermine us.
That, to me, is leadership.
Leadership is honing our skills as masterful storytellers and doing everything necessary to make sure those stories resonate with the right people. It’s choosing to not simply say things but to say them in a way that enables others to really FEEL them.
I think that’s how we need to look at our roles as leaders every day.
As Courageous Leaders in our places of work, are we taking the time to craft our messages, to tell impactful stories, and to engage people emotionally as well as intellectually? Are we connecting one-on-one so that our teams feel heard and recognize themselves and their critical roles in those stories?
In my next blog post, we’ll talk about how to lead like Greta. How to do the hard work to turn big goals into compelling stories. Stories that capture the imagination and engage our team members’ hearts and minds in bringing those goals to fruition.
Let’s make this year the year we lead with the impact of storytelling and go farther with our goals than we ever imagined possible. If Director Greta Gerwig can do it, so can we.
WHAT’S NEXT? Right now, at Cindy Solomon & Associates, we are neck deep in Courageous Leadership training around goal setting, storytelling, and skills development. If you’re an executive or leader seeking guidance in how to engage and inspire your teams to perform beyond their wildest dreams, go to www.courageousleadershipinstitute.com to grab a webinar, workshop, or keynote customized to your organization’s specific needs.
Cindy Solomon is CEO of the Courageous Leadership Institute, a thriving leadership and customer experience training organization with access to up-to-the-minute insights on how today’s most innovative corporations are defining the future of leadership. Learn more at www.CourageousLeadershipInstitute.com.