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The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative Hardcover – April 22, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"...there are good stories here...all used to make leadership points..." (Times Educational Supplement, 23rd September 2005)

From the Inside Flap

In his best-selling book, Squirrel Inc., former World Bank executive and master storyteller Stephen Denning used a tale to show why storytelling is a critical skill for leaders. Now, in this hands-on guide, Denning explains how you can learn to tell the right story at the right time.

Whoever you are in the organization—CEO, middle management, or someone on the front lines—you can lead by using stories to effect change. Filled with myriad examples, The Leader's Guide to Storytelling shows how storytelling is one of the few available ways to handle the principal—and most difficult—challenges of leadership: sparking action, getting people to work together, and leading people into the future. The right kind of story at the right time can make an organization "stunningly vulnerable" to a new idea.


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Product Details

  • Series: J-B US non-Franchise Leadership (Book 39)
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (April 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078797675X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787976750
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #825,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Denning was born in Sydney, Australia. He studied law and psychology at Sydney University. After doing a post-graduate law degree at Oxford University, he joined the World Bank where he worked for several decades in various management capacities, including Program Director of Knowledge Management from 1996-2000.

He is the author of eight books, including The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century, which is being published by Jossey-Bass in October 2010.

His book, The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative, was selected by the Financial Times as one of the best books of 2007.

The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative, was named in 2005 by the Innovation Network as one of the twelve most important books on innovation in the past several years.

Squirrel Inc.: A Fable of Leadership Through Storytelling was published in 2004. He has also published Storytelling in Organizations (2004) and The Springboard (2000) as well as a novel and a volume of poetry.

Denning consults with organizations in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia on topics of leadership, management, innovation and business narrative.

In 2000, he was named as one of the world's most admired knowledge leaders (by Teleos) and in 2003, he was ranked as one of the world's top two hundred business gurus by Tom Davenport and Larry Prusak in their book, What's the Big Idea?

In 2009, he was a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University.
Denning's Web site ( has an extensive collection of materials on radical management, leadership, innovation, knowledge management and business narrative.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Those who have read Denning's The Springboard and/or Squirrel Inc. already know that he specializes in knowledge management and organizational storytelling. In this volume, he develops his core concepts in much greater depth, acknowledging his high regard for Peter Senge's vision of the Total Learning Organization as delineated in his pioneer volume, The Fifth Discipline. Briefly, in it Senge suggests that there are five separate but interrelated "disciplines": building a Shared Vision which enables an organization to build a common commitment to the same long-term goals; formulating Mental Models which guide, inform, and sustain creativity and innovation; encouraging and supporting Team Learning; Personal Mastery of certain skills which enable an individual to learn and understand more and thus perform at a higher level of competence; and finally, Systems Thinking which establishes a holistic view, both of one's organization and of the marketplace in which it pursues success.

In his Introduction to this book, Denning asserts that "the best way to communicate with people you are trying to lead is very often through a story. The impulse here is practical and pedagogical. [The Leader's Guide to Storytelling] shows how to use storytelling to deal with the most difficult challenges faced by leadership today." Denning wholly agrees with Senge that a learning organization is an environment "where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.
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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Jazon Samillano on January 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm only in Chapter 2, and it is already clear that Denning makes a lot of great points in this book. It is most definitely worth every penny and more!

My biggest complaint is that the book is written like a 19th century philosophy treatise! Philosophy was one of my majors in college, so I am well-aware of the agony in reading philosophical text - instead of getting straight to the point, it meanders and loses the reader after every third sentence! In the first chapter of this book, Denning goes on and on about things you could care less about for over 20 pages. I had a sigh of relief when he finally put down all his points in the chapter in just two pages at the end of the chapter!

When I was reading in the plane, I thought at first the reason for my agony was that I was tired. However, each time I got bored with Denning's book, I switched to a novel, and I was not tired anymore! Hey, wait a minute! I thought this was supposed to be a book on storytelling! Why then was it written like an obscure Ph.D. dissertation? You don't believe me? See for yourself. Here's a sampling of the torture:

"Second, the apparent paradox of zero improvement in performance from teams in organizations overall - along with extraordinary gains reportedly made in specific instances - reflects the fact that teams are found at both ends of the effectiveness spectrum."

Now do you believe me!? :)

I'm not saying the entire book looks like the glob you see above. My point is simply that there are numerous sentences here that will require you to pause, say "Huh?", and then reread. So, if you are a speed reading junkie like me, please be very patient! Speed reading is not recommended.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me tell you a story.

I read and review books about leadership in hopes that people will find the books that will help them do the right thing.

Usually, I don't succeed in finding good resources as often as I succeed in finding resources that don't add anything to what Peter Drucker first said 50 or 60 years ago.

I recently heard Steve Denning tell a 15 minute story about how he used one brief anecdote to develop the support he needed to help transform the World Bank from a lagging lender to poor countries into a premier source of knowledge management. I was transfixed by that story and immediately ordered this book in which that story appears.

In The Leader's Guide to Storytelling, I learned that we often go into hypnotic trances when we hear such a story. I must admit that I did.

In fact, I didn't even understand why the story worked at the World Bank until I read the book. Here's what happened. Steve Denning had been given an opportunity to speak on behalf of knowledge management for 10 minutes in front of some of the World Bank's senior executives. What can you do in 10 minutes? You can tell an arresting story that stimulates the hearers to fill in their own solutions that advance your agenda. And that's what Steve Denning did. Two leaders turned that anecdote into their idea of what the World Bank should do in knowledge management. The rest is history.

While the story could have been built up into hours of interesting details, I found that the "minimal" version affected me much like Lincoln's Gettysburg address does. I felt the story throughout my body. I lived that moment with Steve Denning. And I understood both his point about story telling and about why brevity works better in business.
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