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As a prairie lawyer taught us in the s, leaders cannot command people to change their minds. People must be sold on an idea and persuaded to support it. I write about leadership communication to grow sales and build brands. Share to facebook Share to twitter Share to linkedin.

Abraham Lincoln Used A Tree Stump Like A TED Stage To Captivate His Audience

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I think I was as excited as the kids. More, maybe. It had never occurred to me that there might be something like a professional storyteller job. The time came and in walked a tall, older black woman dressed in tribal clothing and with an elaborate scarf arrangement on her head. In her hand she held a small drum — kind of like a bongo drum.

She proceeded to walk slowly in front of the kids, swaying and dipping as she went.

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At strategic points she hit the drum a few times. It could have been a legend, known to African children. As I recall, it was something about why there are stars in the sky. A man with a very long pole poked holes in the sky and that created the stars. The combination of the dress, her voice, the drum and her words kept the children mesmerized.

Afterwards I spent some time wondering if I could do something like that. Then time passed, work took possession of my mind and I put the thought away.


Fast forward ten years. We have a friend who looks just like Abraham Lincoln. I kid you not. I was on the phone one day with a friend who was parked in front of a beauty shop and a barber. She stopped talking mid-sentence. Go ahead and call his name. She did and they had a brief conversation. He has always been told he looked like Abraham Lincoln. To understand the importance of storytelling, we don't need to do an exhaustive study, but to look into the life of the greatest storyteller who ever lived: Abraham Lincoln. But the most important reason for his winning the nomination was that Lincoln was simply a great communicator.

Lincoln's ability to communicate effectively started when he was about six or seven years old. He would attentively listen to his father exchange stories with guests at his house. Though Abraham Lincoln did not have a good relationship with his father, he did acquire a talent for storytelling from him using wit, mimicry and memory retention. Lincoln would listen to the stories and then go back and try to make sense of them.

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He would mesmerize young boys with his ability to tell stories. He enjoyed the attention he was getting which further motivated him to continue honing this skill through reading books and practicing that would later help him socially, in business and, especially, in his political career. Here is what he did very early in his life to develop his skill for storytelling: He learned to be a great listener. He developed his memory to retain stories so he could later recreate it.

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He worked hard to understand the stories that he was hearing. He developed a skill to reformulate the stories not only to ensure that he understood it well, but also to ensure that he can make it understandable to other boys.

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He practiced telling stories with wit, mimicry, and memory retention like his father. He received immediate feedback on how attentive his audience was in listening to his stories. He did this repeatedly and honed his skill of storytelling. Lincoln did all this on his own as he was self-educated.

This skill came to a head in when he had an opportunity to speak at the Cooper Union in New York. He just blew people away with his oratorical skills and garnered wide attention that propelled him in gaining the Republican nomination and, subsequently, the presidency.

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This is not easy to do and no peer of his was adept at it like he. For example let's see how he tackled the major issue of the dayslaverythrough his communications skills.

Abraham Lincoln by Jim Weiss (from "Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America")

Lincoln was going all over the place trying to explain his position on slavery where he had to be very careful on what he said.