Storytelling for Global Leaders

Globalization is one of the primary factors that have led to change the traditional boundaries between government and business (Wolnicki, 2010, p. 477). Globalization has made the world full of chaos and continual change (Marquardt and Berger, 2000, p. 1) as the worldwide network becomes more interdependent and integrated (Mendenhall, 2008). This clashing of cultures creates numerous challenges for leaders to effectively communicate.

One viable communication option for leaders to use that to cut through the cultural challenges in a global climate is storytelling. Storytelling is one of the primary ways leaders can create a sense of individual and group identity (Blum-kulka, 1993), connect generations (Koenig, Kellas & Trees, 2006), and establish guidelines for behavior (Thorson, 2013, p. 88)

One type of storytelling a leader can utilize is personal testimony. As leaders share experiences from their own lives in story form, they build trust with followers (Florin, 2015, p. 34). In a global context, leaders need to establish trust in order to reach through cultural differences with employees and followers, and storytelling can accelerate the bond between leader and follower through the demonstration and validation of authenticity (Florin, p.34) As a caution though, in a global context, leaders should be mindful to not offend when sharing stories where values, faith, and personal strengths are involved (Florin, p. 34).

If used properly, storytelling also contributes to leaders having a sense of understanding of their followers and control of the work environment while having a hand on the pulse followers’ need for experiences and relationships (Weiss, 1977). Individuals use storytelling to make sense of their lives (Fisher, 1989), which can make is usable by leaders to get clarity on the quality of their leadership throughout their global locations.


Fisher, W. R. (1989). Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value, and Action. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Florin, W. (2015). Creating Change Faster: Convergence and Transformation Acceleration. Journal of Practical Consulting, vol. 5(iss. 2), pp. 29–37.

Kellas, J. K., & Trees, A. R. (2006). Finding Meaning in Difficult Family Experiences: Sense-Making and Interaction Processes During Joint Family Storytelling. Journal of Family Communication, 6(1), 49–76.

Marquardt, M. J., & Berger, N. O. (2000). Global Leaders for the Twenty-First Century. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Mendenhall, M. E., Osland, J., Bird, A., Oddou, G. R., & Maznevski, M. L. (2008). Global leadership: research, practice, and development. London ; New York: Routledge.

Thoreson, A. R., Rittenour, C. E., Kellas, J. K., & Trees, A. R. (2013). Quality Interactions and Family Storytelling. Communication Reports, 26(2), 88–100.

Weiss, R. S. (1977). Marital Separation (Edition Unknown edition). New York: Basic Books.

Wolnicki, M. (2010). The day after neoliberal triumphalism. International Journal of Social Economics, 37(7), 476–487.

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