Stories are not just words. They are ideas, they carry meaning. A story can reinforce and confirm those things that you already know to be true, it can open up new areas for us to recognise our own ignorance within, or it can outright deny and denude the foundations of our understanding of how the world works. Stories can make, or break us. Stories can provoke or comfort us. Stories can donate to, or take from us.
We are a storytelling species: homo sapiens is not simply the thinking ape, but the storytelling one. We ‘think’ to create meaning, and we ‘story’ to share it.
A story, well crafted, shared wisely, tuned carefully, may spread meaning throughout a system. But it may equally be countered, denied, perverted, distorted, or fractured, by another story. Because stories do not just carry meaning: they carry power. They carry violence within them.
It’s hard to divorce ‘story’ from ‘context’. A religious text may carry one meaning, if shared in a society where that religion forms the dominant belief system, but when shared in another, or shared a thousand years after the death of the last believer, it has no meaning at all: it can lose it’s context. Context is imbued through our broader cultural understanding, not carried inherently in the form of the story itself. Even cultural norms of beauty and grace are aggregated delusions. Normalised perceptions.
Similarly, the words of a powerful leader may carry great meaning. Until that leader is dismissed for bullying, or harassment, at which time the context strips that meaning away.
A story may hold great authenticity, and spread because of that compelling force, only to lose it if the roots of it’s power are uncovered to be false.
Social Leaders are empowered by their communities: their reputation grounds their Social Authority. You already have your formal power, nested within a hierarchy, but to become a Social Leader, a humble Storyteller is to gain a new type of power.
This month i launch my first Social Leadership Certification programme, exploring ‘The Landscape of Stories’.