Jermaine Jones, a contestant on American Idol this past season, allegedly made up a story about his father leaving him when he was a child and suddenly reappearing in his life after seeing him on TV. Jermaine supposedly created this story in the hopes of gaining votes from the American Public.
Leaders do not lead unless there are people following. One way of creating a relationship with the people is to tell stories. In our class on Saturday, we read several stories of executives and CEOs that tugged at our heart string. Daniel Vasella was shipped away from his family at a young age for medical treatments and he lost his sister and father. Using his life story of struggle as a platform, he attended medical school to fulfill his desire to help the greatest number of people he could. He eventually went onto become the CEO of Novartis at a young age. His story, and many others, inspire us to keep going when the going gets tough and believe in ourselves that we can succeed.
So what if you don’t have a sob story? What if you grew up with a supportive family of 2.5 kids and a dog names Spot? You may have had a bad day here or there but your mother didn’t abandon you at the age of 6 and your dad didn’t die in a car accident. Can you only inspire people with a struggling story?
My “American Idol Theory” states that the initial story gets you the initial votes. But your talent and hard work keeps the votes. Our Richmond favorite, Elliott Yamin, grew up in a single family home with no money. He was one of the last three remaining contestants of the season. But Taylor Hicks, whose story I do not remember at all, won. I am not saying that Hicks had more talent, but Yamin did not automatically win because he had a sadder story than Hicks.
In my position as a leader, I am slowly learning to let people into my life story. The one or two times I have shared a story about my childhood with my staff and parents had a positive outcome. Initially, I was steadfast in keeping “professionalism” in the forefront of my mind that I didn’t think about connecting with the audience. But now I realize that sharing my story is helping the entire school. Their “votes” for our vision will only increase using the American Idol Theory: reel them in with your story and let your talent and hard work carry you through the end.