DescriptionStories in organizations often tell about how leadership happens there. A typical story frame tells about how:
A problem arises and the organization falls into chaos
People are uncertain and troubled
The leader appears and takes charge
Organization, direction and action are created
The problem is resolved and order is restored
The leadership story may also tell of the struggles and difficulties of the journey and how the leader led the people to 'the promised land'.
The aches and pain medication, Tylenol gave Johnson & Johnson more than a headache in October, 1982 when seven people were reported killed after ingesting cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules in Chicago. Johnson & Johnson recalled all of its product and over the following week, every Tylenol product) was removed from every store around the world and destroyed. That’s all 31 million capsules values at $100 million. Complete story here...
Another famous leadership story is IBM's turnaround, famously told in the book Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? In 1990, IBM had its most profitable year ever. By 1993, the computer industry had changed so rapidly the company was on its way to losing $16 billion and IBM was on a watch list for extinction -- victimized by its own lumbering size, an insular corporate culture, and the PC era IBM had itself helped invent. Then Lou Gerstner was brought in to run IBM. Almost everyone watching the rapid demise of this American icon presumed Gerstner had joined IBM to preside over its continued dissolution into a confederation of autonomous business units. This strategy, well underway when he arrived, would have effectively eliminated the corporation that had invented many of the industry's most important technologies.
A telling factor of these stories is whether the leader acts in a controlling or collaborative way (or any balance of these). The implication for future leaders is that they should follow the examples portrayed in the success stories. In some companies people want to be told what to do, especially in times of crisis, whilst in others the route to success in leadership is to involve and communicate widely.Leaders that appear need not be appointed managers, and empowering companies may well tell stories about people from the lowest ranks stepping up to the place.Leadership stories may echo the pattern described by Wilfred Bion in the Basic Assumption Group, where the anxiety of leader-seeking is replaced by hopes of redemption as the leader appears. Idealistic stories will have the leader succeeding, whilst cynical stories will tell of failure.