Instructor Insights

Explaining the Core Concept: The Story + Our Story = Managerial Practice

In this section, Dr. Leigh Hafrey explains the meaning behind the slogan for 15.269 Leadership Stories: Literature, Ethics, and Authority.

I have a slide that is a kind of slogan for the course: “The story plus our story equals managerial practice.” It says that we combine the reality of a situation with our own personality, and that largely dictates how we lead the organization to a solution. The story will come out, whatever the situation you confront, whether you as an individual in an organization face a particular challenge or the organization itself faces a crisis. What kind of a story do you tell in order to explain the situation one way or the other? That’s “the story”.

"We combine the reality of a situation with our own personality, and that largely dictates how we lead the organization to a solution."
— Leigh Hafrey

And then there’s my story, which is what we bring as individuals to a situation. We bring with us a whole series of values. Where do we get them? Do we get them from society? That is, from school, religious organizations, government, and so on, weighing in and telling us what to think, and how to think, and putting in place policies that shape our thinking. Or are we basically fully formed as kids—wired, you know? He’s grumpy, she’s cheery, and so on. And that, too, is what it means to be “me”.

So you’ve got the organizational situation or the social situation, and you’ve got your own personal set of standards, which could be innate or shaped by social forces, but it’s still you. So you put those two together. And then, if you’re in a managerial situation, you figure out what to do. So “the story plus my story equals managerial practice, or management” is how you combine your values with organizational values in larger social situations, in order to come up with an organizational solution.

How do you get other people in your organization to buy into your story, to move in the direction you want to go? Sometimes no one in particular wants to take control of the situation, so we spend time having a conversation. And somehow, because we know we need to get somewhere—and the question then becomes, “Where?”—we lead one another and ourselves to a place where we come to a consensus that is the story. Of course, some people are inclined to be more persuasive than others!

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