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The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative Hardcover – October 12, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Named one of the "Best Business Books of the Year" (2007) by Financial Times: "Leaders don’t just execute strategy, they must inspire others to follow...This book explains how." (Financial Times, December 8, 2007)

"Denning cohesively links the importance of narrative intelligence and telling stories to leadership success." (Library Journal, December 2007)

"...if there's one person who knows more than anyone else about the power of business narrative it's...Steve Denning."  (MyCustomer.com, Friday 7th December 2007)

"This book's lucid explanations, vivid examples and practical tips are essential reading..."  (PublicNet.co.uk, Tuesday 4th December 2007)

"...an array of glowing testimonials from truly famous people.  Definitely one for those interested in transformational change."  (Strategic Communication Management, December 2007)

"…an educational and informative book that can be effortlessly read from cover to cover." (Inside Knowledge, September 2007)

Review

"If business leaders do not immediately grasp the vital insights offered by this book, both they and their organisations are doomed."--Stefan Stern, Financial Times

"Steve Denning is the Warren Buffett of business communication. He sees things others don't and is able to explain them so the rest of us can understand."--Chip Heath, co-author of Made to Stick, Professor of Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University

"I highly recommend you get it today and read it tonight. Tomorrow will be an entirely different kind of day if you do."---Jim Kouzes, Co-author of the best-selling, The Leadership Challenge, and A Leader’s Legacy

"The Secret Language of Leadership has been instrumental in helping me overcome the challenges of rapid growth and intense competition. It's all about the story."--Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix Inc.

"I don't think I have ever read a more compelling preface. And best of all, the advice Denning gives to the reader about speaking and writing is exemplified in the way he has written this impressive book."--James MacGregor Burns, distinguished senior scholar, James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, University of Maryland, and author of Leadership

"The Secret Language of Leadership is not only the best analysis I have seen of how and why leaders succeed or fail, it's highly readable, as well as downright practical. It should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in engaging a company with big ideas who understands that leaders live and die by the quality of what they say."--Richard Stone, story analytics master, i.d.e.a.s

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787987891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787987893
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are four classical "levels of discourse": Exposition, Description, Narration, and Argumentation (EDNA).

Exposition uses information to explain, reveal, "expose," etc.
Description makes vivid with compelling details and figurative language.
Narrative tells a story with a plot or explains a sequence.
Argumentation convinces with logic and/or evidence.

So what? Actually, a great deal if the objective is to communicate much more effectively. All of the most influential transformational leaders throughout history were great storytellers. They knew when and how to use the elements of EDNA to explain, to inspire, to entertain, and to convince others.

What we have in Stephen Denning's latest and most valuable book is his development in much greater depth of information and insights he previously introduced in The Springboard, Squirrel, Inc., and The Leader's Guide to Storytelling. He also shares his thoughts about other dimensions of transformational leadership because he realized that "narrative wasn't the whole story. The secrets of leadership lay not only in the stories that were being told but also in the way the leadership goals themselves were formulated. Leaders could also use other tools like frames, questions, offers, challenges, metaphors, reasons, and so on."

Denning explains how these and various other communication tools relate to each other, which are best for the given purpose (i.e. explain, inspire, entertain, and/or convince), and how all these tools can be "combined in a seamless leadership message" that can attract and (more importantly) then capture people's attention.
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Format: Hardcover
"Another parable He put forth to them, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.'" -- Matthew 13:31-32 (NKJV)

If I could only give a leader one book, it would be this one. Why? You can have the best ideas in the world, but if no one is interested, they won't go anywhere.

How do I know? Consider that most of the effective ideas that are broadly applied were first conceived over 400 years ago. Why? No one knew how to explain the ideas using stories in the right way.

Is that a problem in your organization? Sure, it is.

I know people who have built major career successes out of telling one story, over and over again. Yes, I know that sounds silly, but it's true.

When I first started working at the Boston Consulting Group, all my colleagues marveled at the brilliance of the strategy concepts. I was amazed instead by the power of the stories and started memorizing them. Within six months, CEOs of major organizations were hanging onto my words as though I had 20 years of experience even though I was only 24 years old. All I did was master telling those stories.

I have long been convinced that story telling (something you can see done brilliantly in the Bible by Jesus) is the key to effective leadership. Until I found Stephen Denning, however, I never found anyone who could explain the process. I just knew when I had heard a good story . . . and would use the story whenever it was appropriate. Now, as a result of studying Denning's books, I can craft my own stories.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the book which is full of very relevant and concrete examples that really helped me understand the concepts and the approach. A simple review of what does and does not work well is included that I found very insightful. I'm far from being a good story teller but this book gave me the desire to try it very seriously and trying is often adopting...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book held some great topics for a leader or change agent to contemplate when crafting a message. The author provides the golden nuggets of his insight, but also provides ample evidence that he is well-read. The reader will need to slog through some of the pompousness to get to those items that will help make the reader a better leader.
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Format: Hardcover
Useful two or three messages which could have been succinctly expressed in an article. The message and the examples have to work hard for their living - they are repeated many times. While 'Leadership' includes a great deal more than narrative, the importance of stories to create meaning is a point well made.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a truly inspiring book so much so that after I read it I recommended we purchase for our senior leadership group for Christmas and we did. So insightful and yet so simple. One of the best books on leadership I have read.
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Format: Hardcover
Very interesting book on leadership, I have just started reading it as it is required course material.

So far, it is a pretty awesome read, great price, and highly recommended!
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