Soledad O’Brien on the Power of Storytelling in Leadership

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NLI Staff
Award-winning journalist Soledad O'Brien discusses the power of storytelling in helping leaders build inclusion throughout their teams.

Not everyone thinks of themselves as a storyteller, but everyone has a story to tell.

For Soledad O’Brien, award-winning journalist and executive producer at Starfish Media Group, that point rings especially true. Having spent many years in newsrooms and reporting around the world, Soledad has made a career out of shining a light on lesser-told stories.

These days, she spends a lot of time thinking about storytelling in another arena: organizations. As she discussed on a recent episode of the “Your Brain at Work” podcast, every leader can benefit from learning the stories of their employees. It’s how you build inclusion, and help people feel like their ideas, backgrounds, and experiences truly matter.

“I like talking to leaders,” Soledad says, “because I think one of the biggest things that I see is that they just don’t really get access to all the stories.”

Part of the reason is that leaders don’t necessarily see the value in seeking those stories. Occupied with an ever-growing list of daily responsibilities, they may claim inclusion as a priority but fall short of building it into their actual behavior. Or, as we say at NLI, if you aren’t actively including, you’re probably accidentally excluding.

Leaders can go a long way toward building that inclusion by rethinking who they’ve been including in projects and meetings. It may be the case that actively interrogating their typical processes could reveal cases of “over-inclusion,” where certain people spend too much time involved, while others don’t get included enough.

The step is simple, Soledad concedes, but one that is all too easy to overlook.

“Who’s in the room is never accidental,” she says. “Who’s in the room is never a second or third thought, or just something that gets cobbled together at the last minute. Who is in the room explains the hierarchy in an organization. It explains the flow chart. It explains who has the power. It literally is a statement of your company’s values when it comes to diversity and inclusion.”

Check out the entire episode with Soledad at Simplecast.

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