One of Your Roles as the CEO is to be the Chief Storyteller

Marsha Prospere
3 min readFeb 10, 2023

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The responsibilities of a CEO continue to be an ever-growing list. Add a new point to that: being the chief storyteller.

Storytelling is an effective communication tool to excite, engage, motivate, and inform others about the status of a company, especially when the CEO embraces it. Similar to reviewing a myriad of reports, preparing for a company all hands, or planning a presentation to the board, the skill of storytelling can quickly become an innate skill.

Narratives are powerful. In the absence of one, humans will create their own. When the inevitable happens, like firing or replacing a team member, layoffs, or a change in strategy, sharing the narrative with your team will help them understand how the changes impact them, the company, and the vision. It is easy to miss this opportunity during the fast pace of change, hoping that the impact of the changes will blow over or that your direct reports will share the information. During these moments especially, it is important that everyone hear from you.

As a CEO transforms into a chief storyteller, something intriguing happens: it challenges them to look outside of their leadership bubble for unsung successes. It challenges them to share fear, failure, and vulnerabilities as a way to engage. In turn, it has a positive ripple effect across a culture that can impact engagement and retention rates, levels of job satisfaction, and, simply put, help a company become a place that others want to be a part of. It’s the beginning of a ripple effect that encourages others to tell stories about the organization too. And, as important, an engaged company impacts performance.

In order to be a great storyteller, a leader must commit to this responsibility and begin sharing their narrative. Here are four ideas of how to fully step into the role of the chief storyteller:

Seek Out a Variety of Voices. One of the CEO’s biggest challenges will be hearing from diverse voices to hear a variety of stories. At smaller organizations, this feat may be more manageable. But if your organization is big or has a hybrid or remote component, hearing from different teams may present an opportunity for collaboration with your direct reports. As the chief storyteller, ask yourself how you can better listen to all voices, how you can access them, and how you can get your team to also listen to different perspectives.

Make it Intentional. Not all great storytellers are born. The reality is it takes practice to tell a great story. Carve out time in the week dedicated to thinking, discovering, or crafting stories. An example of this may be setting the intention of “I want to hear how the customer success team helped a client who was ready to fire us.” Gather the information and consider what is of value to share, and then craft your story.

Connect the Dots. Telling a great story is wonderful, but when a CEO connects it to the vision, mission, values, and culture, it has the power to resonate with the team. For instance, if the organization has a value of experimentation, stories that showcase how the team experimented — and it paid off either through insights gained or wins — is a way the CEO can help others better embrace and understand what the company stands for.

Find Opportunities to Share. Hearing interesting stories within the company walls is one thing. But it’s critical for a leader to make sure stories are shared with a greater audience — whether that be stakeholders, customers, or the entire team. The easiest way to share more stories is to tap into the times you’re conveying information or presenting. Presenting to your board of directors? Start with a story. Kicking off the holiday party? Tell a story in your toast. Looking to recruit a new C-level team member? Tell stories about successes and failures to share what your organization is really about.

Go into a storytelling practice with the following mantra: no story is too small. As you begin to tell more stories — and think of yourself as the chief storyteller — your effort and enthusiasm will encourage others to do the same, breathing new life into your culture and team spirit.

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Marsha Prospere

NYC native, executive & life coach, traveler, writer, human. Photo by Richard Louissaint