Leadership And The Power Of Stories

/NOTE/ The following is a guest post by Alan E. Shelton, author of Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery.

All aspiring leaders, and that includes everyone, start their learning style from the very same place. At young ages we are given books, diagrams, models, and even exams to test our ability to understand a concept. This style of learning – conceptual learning, while necessary, is simply a precursor to a more mature style that we learn later on.

Unfortunately, no one bothers to tell us that and more often than not many people never move on to the second style, or stage, of learning. The downside to the conceptual style of learning we’re all familiar with, is that we begin to believe that concepts themselves have value. In fact, we argue, fight, and even have wars based on our belief that a concept itself has value. But true leadership does not stand in this style of learning, but rather in the important, second stage.

Experience: The Second Half

At about the age of 35, I began to see that the concepts I had learned were not complete in and of themselves, but simply doorways or pointers to my own behavior and experience as an executive and a leader. Upon that discovery I began to read anything and everything I could about experience that I could find. One day, I came upon a saying from an unknown Easternmystic. It goes something like this;

“If you need experience, go get experience.”

Now this may seem silly but it is the truth. So how do you make this happen? Let me explain:

It’s All In the Story

Even as a young leader we all know to look within every organization and find the wizards, male or female, that seemingly move with grace from decision to decision. These people make corporate execution look effortless and always seem to hold more information than one can believe. But there’s one thing you may not know.

The common bond between all of these people are the stories that they tell. Why is it that these people speak in parables and expect for that to make a difference? It is because they know one secret: They have moved from speaking in concepts to speaking in stories. They are giving you the doorway and an invitation to stand in the story that they tell and locate yourself in the stories that you yourself are living.

When I wrote my book Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery I filled it with my personal stories. I knew that if my contribution to leadership was to have any effect, it must invite leaders to stand in their own experience. So my stories became an invitation for them to stand on their very own. Here is how I explained it in my book.

When you have made the move from conceptual understanding all the way to your lived experience of wholeness, it is similar to feeling the sudden warmth on your upturned face when the sun breaks through after a long spate of cold, overcast days. That’s when the soundtrack of all your thoughts and actions will resonate in perfect pitch with your true self. This moment of awakening can then be expanded to become the ground of all experience.

The awakened state is not reached with an instruction manual in hand. I wrote this book because my experience as both a leader and a seeker has demonstrated the value of hearing stories and absorbing concepts that serve as pointers within the territory that must be walked on the journey of awakening.

My aim in telling the stories of my life is not to provide you with new and interesting tales to tell your associates and friends. Nor is it possible for my stories to create a specific pathway for your life, either personally or professionally. These tales are intended to shed light on the stages of human expansion and development and the myriad challenges that confront the dedicated seeker along the way. I use them to illustrate ego development and its maturity into awakening. Consider them as opportunities to inhabit your own stories so that the learning you extract from them will advise you on your journey. They will invite you to dig through your life and discover where your own stories have led you thus far, so that you can begin to intuit where they may want to take you next.

So, you want to become a mature and seasoned leader. That is all I ever wanted as I journeyed through the corporate world. Let me do you a favor. Understand that you will have to make the journey across the bridge from the conceptual to the experiential. Start today to tie your own personal experience to the concepts that you have been taught. Then, from there, begin to tell the stories that the wise wizards of the corporate world can only tell.


ALAN E. SHELTON is a leadership coach, speaker, blogger, and author. His groundbreaking book, Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self-Mastery, integrates the corporate leadership and spiritual worlds through his message that awakening is the felt  sense that your actions seamlessly reside in who you really are and move in a perfect flow. You can follow Alan on Twitter, like his Facebook page, and learn more about him at his website, www.AlanShelton.com.

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