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The Art Of Storytelling Is The Quality Of A True Leader: Seema Anand, Mythologist And Narratives Practitioner

Mythologist and narratives practitioner Seema Anand says that a true leader is defined with the way he can change people’s perspectives through the art of storytelling.

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In an interview with BW Businessworld, Mythologist and narratives practitioner Seema Anand discloses the true qualities of a leader and the importance of storytelling. This particular skill according to her has changed the ways organizations and industries in the West function. She sheds more light on the importance of narratives by finding key learnings from ancient Hindu scripts and their relevance with the modern day world of corporates. 

What is the art of seduction and how is it relevant in businesses & corporates today?

The idea behind the art of seduction came from women’s narratives and I believe the stories that we tell define who we are. As I worked with women stories I found that we never ever had an occasion where women could say they have the right to their own body. Hence, I started to explore ancient texts and literature which opened another discovery for me. That the Kamasutra inspired the literature of India from 300 B.C. to 1800 A.D. and Vatsyayana, the ancient Indian philosopher mentions something about arousing everyone’s mental desires. The meaning derived from these learnings was to elevate your mind in order to concentrate on bigger and better things in life. The Kamasutra, Artha Shastra, and Manusmriti were written at the same time because it was believed they are the 3 pillars of life where one is incomplete without the other. We talk about Kamshastra because it is an incredible book on diplomacy. The learnings we bring out from the Arts of Seduction is based on organising and creativity and the fine balance between the two which is quite important for the leaders of today. 

How would you see storytelling as a key leadership tool and why is it necessary to possess these qualities?

A good leader must possess the power of communication and carry it out effectively. The people listening to him/her will not understand things in the same way and our brain is made up of layers and layers of ideas and preconceptions. At any time if a leader decides to teach me something, all the reconciles of the brain move just a little bit and makes way for new learning. You can’t change the way people think and you cannot give them a new idea, but we can definitely change the perceptions. The only way to do that is through storytelling. Instead of talking to someone and encouraging them to change their destiny, if you tell them about a person who changed his/her destiny it makes more sense. It is the content and the way you tell it and I believe we are defined by our stories & live by our stories. These stories sit in the subconscious and even the World Bank has set out an example of describing the narratives through stories for everyone to follow it.  If a leader has to influence a larger group of people, he/she can only do that by inspiring them with content and stories that would help change their perspective and bring it more closer to the point that leader tries to make.

Would the art of storytelling impacts brands to advertise more stories about their impact on society as a strategy to grow in the long run?

If you look at any brand, you will only remember them for the story they talk about or the stories through which it affects a consumer’s life. If you see an advertisement of a brand you’d see a small story through which they are sold. Everybody is demanding for impactful stories and the reason only leads to an effective way of communication that influences the perceptions of people by shifting it and making room for new thinking. Organization narratives are very important and only circles around building up brands around stories. The ones that want to sustain and grow over a long period in the market generally adapt to this theory. 

Do leaders vary from country to country and hold different opinions? If yes then how would you align their thoughts keeping the narratives in mind?

I believe that a leader depends on what message you want to give and who would you want to be followed by along with the story he/she puts across. Leaders are the same across the world, their communication skills should be understood properly. If you poll on the type of leader you’d want, it would differ from one mind set to the other demanding different qualities. In the West, they have started this extension of ideas in organizations where team skills are recognized more than individual skills and a leader’s success depends on his/her team. People have understood that if their teams are diverse they have learnt to understand the importance of motivation and alignment of management. The ultimate goal of success for leaders from any part of the world depends on how they align the strengths of their teams in order to work better. This change has now come to India and we will learn from the understandings of the West simply because we don’t lack globally recognized products or a globally recognized economy but we lack global leaders coming out of this country. Keeping the narratives in mind, a leader coming from any country or region must possess the power of inspiring people through stories and the art of storytelling. 

What according to you are the qualities that a leader must possess?

For a leader, it is very important to learn how to communicate and acknowledge different people. A leader needs to understand the importance of everybody’s perspective. There are more than a million ways to execute something through ideas and a leader must keep a broader thinking where all ideas could come together and work along with his/her vision in order to avoid losing a team member. Empathy really helps in respecting other people’s versatility and that is why we need to really focus on finding stories around leaders who can gather contributions from the masses and cultivate them into success stories. 

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