Leadership Aria: Mapping the Art of Telling Your Story

Aria: a song that is sung by only one person, as in an opera or oratorio, as part of a larger work.

 

In a role of public leadership, we really don’t have a choice about telling our story of self.

Marshall Ganz, Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard College

Leaders engaged in the urgent work of urban and rural education have an obligation to know how to tell the Story of Self: to students, to families, to the community, to teachers, to funders… We want to connect with the values that drive leaders because they are my values, our values, the community's values. We want to feel inspired. To feel hopeful. We want to feel your impatience with a system that allows our students to fail. We want to know how you turn anger, despair, and futility into hope, vision, and a plan. How does your Story intersect with the near and distant future for our students and families? What is the song you sing?


Be fearless      Dig deep 

MAPPING Transform stories and data into music and lyrics for your Aria

 

  • M is for Moment: Take us to a moment that holds your Truth and defines you: a challenge or problem that you have worked through; an interaction with a student, family or community member. Tell a particular Story because the specific is universal and tells the Story of Us. Be succinct.

  • A is for Audience: Know your audience to connect with them. Ask yourself: Why am I telling this particular story at this particular time? What do they already know? What new information do I bring to them? What do I want them to walk away chewing on, repeating or acting on?

  • P is for Prepare: Prepare as though you are answering questions you wish someone would ask you. Weave stories and data which can be defined in many ways including statistical, anecdotal and observational data. Identify questions that you hope no one will ask because someone surely will.  

  • P is for Practice telling your Story but don’t memorize it. Ask for specific feedback: Do I seem authentic? Do I make clear points? Do I inspire others to act?

  • P is for Present tense: Tell your Story in the present tense to bring you and your audience closer to it. Do not use PP to repeat what you are saying. PowerPoint can reduce your gorgeous orchestration to elevator music – your multi-dimensional self-portrait into a paint-by-numbers canvas. You are the storyteller. You have the power. You are what moves people to action.

  • I is for Integrate and Inspire: Integrate your head and your heart to inspire the audience to feel and to act.

  • N is for Now: Now is the time to act. Allow a repetitive phrase to emerge that becomes the musical motif for the score you are creating (I have a dream… Yes we can… I do this work because… We need to level the playing field...)

  • G is for Generosity: Embody a deep sense of generosity toward your audience and hold a bigger vision of them than they may have of themselves.

 

Step forward and raise your single voice to move the larger community forward.

 

Linda Belans: Founding Director, KIPP Leadership Coaching Program. Architect, States of Being.