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The Storyteller As Leader - Handout

by Doug Lipman

This handout was created for several one- or two-hour workshops that I have given in various sites across the U.S.

I often begin by asking participants to brainstorm the cultural stereotypes about artists, then about leaders.

Then I introduce the first of the four questions, have people answer it with a partner or in a small group, then have a few participants share their answers with the entire group. I repeat the whole process for each question.

You may want to refer also to the article, How Storytellers Lead

Table of Contents:

The Artist's Role
The Leader's Role
Questions for Storytellers As Leaders


The Artist's Role

We have many misconceptions about what it means to be an artist, including the ideas that:

  • Only certain people have artistic ability.
      This misconception keeps most people from including a full range of human creativity in their lives - and it may keep those of us who identify as artists preoccupied with wondering if we really have "talent."
  • Artists work best when miserable and in isolation.
  • Artists are somehow crazy.
  • Artists make no important contribution to society.
The artist is actually someone who devotes a substantial portion of herself or himself to imagination and presentation - of human experience, history, and potential.

This role is vital for communities to function at their best. The clearer we are about who humans are and can be, in fact, the more efficiently we can realize our potential.

Art is fundamental and powerful. The artist can bring substantial force to bear on the institutions, individuals, and the world as a whole.


The Leader's Role

We also have rampant misconceptions about what it means to be a leader.

These misconceptions include the ideas that:

  • Leadership is a burdensome obligation.
  • There needs to be competition among leaders.
  • Leadership has nothing to do with imagination or art.
The leader is actually someone in any group who takes active responsibility for making things go well. Thus, there can be many leaders in a group.

Although many may believe that leadership (as usually defined) is contradictory to the role of the storyteller, I believe that only by taking some form of leadership can we actually fulfill our roles as storytellers.

The exciting prospect is to discover forms of leadership that use our unique gifts and add joy and exhilaration to our lives.


Questions for Storytellers As Leaders

Answer each of these questions in whichever contexts make sense for you, e.g.:

  • as a member of the community of storytellers; AND/OR
  • as a member of a local community or of a community of interest; AND/OR
  • as a member of the society as a whole.

1. What have you been doing as a storyteller that fulfills your concept of the role of leader?
Before answering this question, you may want to read How storytellers lead
2. What are the main issues you see facing storytellers as leaders at this point?
Issues can include
  • threats
  • opportunities.
3. Given what you have been doing and the issues you see, what are your plans for this next period?
4. What will you need in order to complete your plans as leader?
You might consider the kinds of help and other resources - both personal and public - that will make it possible for you to succeed.

I invite your further thoughts, feelings, and plans!

I would love to hear from you.

Copyright © Doug Lipman



Doug Lipman

152 Wenonah Road, Longmeadow, MA 01106 U.S.A.
Phone: (781) 837-1940
Alternate Phone (rings the same line): (413) 754-6728
Fax (toll-free): (888) 300-6665

This page was last updated on Friday, November 28, 2003
Copyright©2003 Doug Lipman