Leaders are Story Weavers
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Part 3 of 6.
Being able to see your story as part of a larger narrative is just the first step towards a collective narrative. After we see that our individual stories are part of an intricate and connected whole, the next thing we realize is how our individual stories affect the stories of the others who are part of the collective narrative. Then, we also see how their individual stories greatly affect our own. Our individual stories are not just woven together, they affect each other, move each other, change each other.
The collective narrative does not just give us a sense of greater meaning and purpose because of the gravitas of the grand story. It also gives us a sense of responsibility and authorship, not just with our own story but with the story of the others, and the story of the community.
The story of Overmind, the company I started, has always been interwoven with the story of my mentorship under the film legend Marilou Diaz-Abaya. Everytime I am asked to tell the story of why and how I started the company, I begin with how I met my sensei, and lead the story to her deathbed, where she handed down to me her treasures in storytelling. I end the story with the Overmind mantra which I attribute to her: "Change the world one story at a time."
Our origin story was not always like that. Not that the latest version of the story I tell is untrue. The story of our beginning can be told from multiple perspectives, different starting points, and varied arrangements of events. It can be told from the perspective of our first big project, a 1.2 million-peso project that forced us to incorporate and register so we can issue a receipt. It can be told from the perspective of our first short film as a group which we shot not for a client but only for fun. It can be told from the evening we called the company Overmind, when we decided that we will become consultants on storytelling.
But after a couple of years of working together as an organization, going through strat planning sessions, team building workshops, and group storytelling exercises, we have learned how our individual stories have converged to the point when we banded together and built Overmind. Collectively, we saw how each of our narrative threads contributed to the grand story of the organization. In our own individual stories, we all wanted to change the world one story at a time.
And so this has become not just the summary of our collective narrative. This has become our mantra. Each of us understands the arc that our collective narrative is following. And as individuals, we must ensure that our own personal stories run in parallel with the collective story, and that everything we do adds to the movement of our collective plot towards the direction we determined it to take.
Sounds much like strategic planning and team building. I agree. In fact, I would like to make a bolder claim about the power of collective storytelling based on how we have crafted our own collective narrative: An organization’s story is its strategy.
The question now would be, how can a leader facilitate the crafting and telling of this collective narrative? What traits or skills does he need to develop so he can serve as a master storyteller who draws out the individual stories of his community and weaves them together into one, coherent, and beautiful narrative?