We’ve spent years studying with Organizational Theorists, Rhetoricians, Consultants, Software Developers, Students, Architects, Fractal Theorists, Quantum Physicists, Shamans, Witches, Alchemists, Artists, Enterprise Architects, Dowsers, Gamers, Tribal Elders, Barbershop Proprietors, Performance Artists, Improvisers, Disney Animators, String Theorists, Clowns, Farmers, Cowboys, Bartenders and Storytellers working in every organizational ilk, from start-ups to Fortune 100s, in order to develop new ways of telling and sharing stories.
Here’s what it all comes down to, especially now:
- We are given choices in our personal and working lives between ‘Power With’ relationships, and ‘Power Over’ relationships
- ‘Power With’ relationships thrive on diversity. They know that sharing power is not the same thing as giving it up, that leadership can manifest itself in many different roles, and that much about good leadership is invisible.
- Power Over relationships call for micro-managing, and demand constant attention. This often means creating a crisis just so a leader can lead in the most visible possible way, by playing the Hero.
- Power Over leaders play zero-sum games. Every win must be another’s loss. In fact, the ‘wins’ themselves are often defined solely by the fact that someone has else has ‘lost.’ Often, there’s no appreciable progress, no actual gain, instead, it’s that someone else is spiraling down faster than you are that matters to Power Over leaders. It’s all about that leverage.
- Power Over leaders are on an endless quest for a Dominant Narrative. This means relentless repetitive, monolithic, one-note messaging, and, because the game is win/lose, it also means quieting voices telling any story but the dominant one, and frequent scapegoating of those around you–people falling in and out of favor at a leader’s whim–to set the example of what can happen to any dissenter. And here’s the costly kicker: There’s always only one solution to any problem. No one can afford this approach any more.
- The test of a Dominant Narrative is how nonsensical–i.e. against the self-interests of those believing in it– it can be and still be believed.
- ‘Power With’ relationships, by contrast, call on Ensemble Storytelling. This results in leadership in which more voices are heard, resulting in more possibilities, faster, for solutions and productive outcomes.
- In Ensemble Storytelling, a Situation defines leadership roles, i.e. whose voices will be heard, and whose presence will be made visible, when, in a given scenario.
- ‘Power With’ leaders use Ensemble Storytelling as a basis for collaborative problem solving, iterative testing and optimization, and the fast pivoting required for complex, fast-evolving networks.
- Storytelling is the new Software