Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

What Storytelling Reveals As The Role Leaders Should Play

A revealing look at three stories that help to illustrate how the function of leaders is to serve as mentors for the real heroes of their organization – their employees.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about 3 fundamental storytelling elements leaders should employ to successfully drive change.

Now when it comes to using storytelling to help describe our vision or change initiative, the common tendency is to frame our story within the hero on a quest narrative, given how it’s the decisions and choices we make through our leadership that ultimately impact whether we collectively succeed or fail.

And yet, the truth is that while we may be the source of the vision or change initiative that guides our collective efforts, the actual role we play as leaders in our organization’s story is not that of the hero, but that of the mentor.

To understand why the role of mentor is the proper fit for leaders in terms of the journey your organization needs to take, let’s start off by looking at the three characteristics that define what a mentor does:

1. Mentors act as our teacher and guide
The most common role mentors play is that of a teacher and guide; that they use their own experiences and insights to help others learn about themselves and find the path they are meant to take to achieve a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.

2. Mentors serve as both our cheerleader and our challenger
Mentors will often cheer us on – inspiring us to keep pushing ahead, and eager to celebrate our successes. But mentors also challenge us to question our assumptions of what we’re capable of and what we can achieve.

3. The mentoring relationship has a fixed end point
There’s a clear end point in the relationship between the mentor and the mentee. Specifically, that once the mentor has provided their mentee with all the help and guidance they can provide, it’s time for the mentee to use their acquired knowledge and insights to continue their journey on their own.

Taken together, these three characteristics illustrate what Christopher Vogler wrote in his book, “The Writer’s Journey”:

“Mentors provide heroes with motivation, inspiration, guidance, training, and gifts for the journey. Every hero is guided by something, and a story without some acknowledgement of this energy is incomplete.”

Interestingly, Vogler’s description of the role mentors play in storytelling mirrors the function of effective leadership. Namely, that it’s a leader’s responsibility to craft a vision that inspires people to commit their best efforts, as well as providing our employees with the support and guidance to help make that vision a reality.

Of course, when it comes to storytelling, it’s easy for us to imagine ourselves being the heroes of our organization’s story thanks to our leadership role. And yet, the simple truth is that as leaders, we serve as the mentor to the real heroes of our organization’s story – our employees [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

With that in mind, I’d like to share stories from three different movies that help shine a light on how we can serve as mentors through our leadership to bring out the best in those we lead: Click here to continue reading »”What Storytelling Reveals As The Role Leaders Should Play”

4 Important Leadership Lessons From The Final Frontier

In honour of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, here are 4 important leadership lessons we can learn from the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

If you’re a Star Trek fan like myself, then you know this week marks a historic milestone for this science fiction cultural phenomenon. More specifically, how this Thursday, September 8th marks the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode in this iconic, internationally renowned television series.

Whether you’re a fan of the series, or sci-fi in general, or not, you have to admit it’s an impressive feat for a series made literally half a century ago to have given rise to four television spinoff series (with a fifth TV series now in the works), along with 13 movies, including the recent reboot series of which my daughter Alya is a big fan.

Now while I imagine much will be written and spoken this week regarding the enduring appeal of this show, there can be no doubt that a big factor behind its ability to continue to garner new fans decades after its series run is because of its earnest desire to showcase our collective humanity at its very best.

But there’s another aspect of this popular franchise that we can also appreciate and that is some of the lessons we can learn about how to be the kind of leader who not only inspires the best in others, but who also demonstrates a sense of clarity about who we are and what we’d like to achieve.

To that end, here are 4 important leadership lessons we can learn from Star Trek to improve the way we lead our team and organization.

1. You have to care about your people as much as you do about your mission
With a show as old as the original Star Trek series, it’s only natural that certain presumptions are made about the show and its characters that are not necessarily reflective of what was really shown on the series. One example of this was how in recent years, people began to think of Captain Kirk as being this action-oriented leader while his more recent, modern counterparts in subsequent TV sequel series were the more thoughtful, cerebral type.

While there certainly were more fight sequences in The Original Series as compared to the ones it gave rise to, the truth is that one thing that was ever-present in Kirk’s character was how his primary focus was on his crew. While the most obvious example of this can be seen in various episodes where Kirk faces a threatening adversary and barters his own life in exchange for the safety of his crew, the most evocative example of this is seen in those moments where he kneels over the body of a lost crewman.

Unlike his contemporaries who absorbed crew losses as new data to reformulate their strategy, Kirk never shied away from letting others see that he’s taking this loss personally, regardless of how well or how little he knew them.

But he also demonstrated that sense of care and concern in how he pushed his crew to do better; to challenge themselves to rise above the challenges before them because he believed in their potential to be more. That’s why the stories in this series remain timeless – it’s not about the technology, but about Click here to continue reading »”4 Important Leadership Lessons From The Final Frontier”

The Leadership Legacy Of A Childhood Hero

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As a writer, there’s a natural tendency to examine events to see how they can shape our understanding of things and generate ideas that can be shared with others. It’s from that perspective that this piece that came to mind on the news of the passing of one of my childhood heroes, Leonard Nimoy, and what insights could be gleaned on looking back at the impact his life has had on so many around the world.

As is the case with many scientists, Star Trek inspired within me a deep love for both real-world science and science fiction. But it’s not just scientists who have been singing their praises for Leonard Nimoy’s work. Indeed, people from all walks of life have been joining in the choruses of expressing gratitude for the influence his work – and in particular his portrayal of the legendary character Mr. Spock – has had on their lives.

Granted, for some, it might be hard to appreciate what’s behind all these tributes from people all over the world, not to mention heads of state and leaders of some of the world’s largest organizations. That is, of course, until we recognize that in those tributes we see people talking less about his work playing the fictional character Mr. Spock, and more about how his work influenced them.

Of how the character he gave life to inspired so many to challenge themselves to not only believe in a better tomorrow, but to become active participants in making that idea a reality.

It’s from that lens that I decided to write my own personal tribute to this childhood hero of mine, by sharing some stories from his life and what lessons we can learn from them about how we can use our leadership to bring out the best in those we lead, as well as inspire them to commit to the vision we have for the future.

1. Find opportunities to address the needs of others
One of the common statements being shared about Leonard Nimoy was how generous a person he was both to the people he worked with and to the numerous fans he met over the course of his life.

Some of the best examples of this can be seen in the efforts he made on behalf of Click here to continue reading »”The Leadership Legacy Of A Childhood Hero”

Star Trek XI Review – Star Trek Finds Its Bearings Again

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As was the case for many Star Trek fans, I took the opportunity to check out JJ Abrams latest film “Star Trek” on its opening night last Friday.  Although a few months ago I was cautiously optimistic about this fresh take on the Star Trek franchise, as the movie’s release date drew near, I found I was more and more eager to see this latest interpretation.  After watching Abrams’ “Star Trek”, I feel a sense of elation and satisfaction that those very elements that drew me to Star Trek in the first place have finally returned in full force.

Obviously, as a review piece, there are going to be a few spoilers coming up.  So if you haven’t seen the film yet, do yourself a favour and read this review after you’ve had a chance to watch it.  As was the case with my review of BSG’s series finale, this review is a long piece, in part because there is so much to point out, but also because it’s the first time in a long while there’s been something new and noteworthy in the Star Trek universe worth discussing at length.  Also, like my reviews of BSG, my focus is not on attempting to explain, rationalize or dissect the technological aspects of the work, but instead the character drama seen within it as that’s what is of particular interest to me.  So if you’re ready, click on the read more link to find out what I thought of JJ Abrams take on the Star Trek universe. Click here to continue reading »”Star Trek XI Review – Star Trek Finds Its Bearings Again”

Star Trek XI – The Anticipation Grows . . .

Star-Trek-XI-Anticipation

In North America, tonight is the night that many of us will finally have the chance to see Abrams’ take on the Star Trek franchise. Perhaps it’s a reflection of my change in social internet circles, but it’s nice to see that the last few days leading into tomorrow’s official release has been marked by a sense of anticipation and enthusiasm. I know I’ve been feeling more and more excited by this film’s arrival as opening day edges ever closer that “Star Trek” might finally mature into something more contemporary, instead of being relegated into being a vehicle for Trekkies to latch their childhood memories onto.

Of course, that’s not to say I’m not a fan of the original version featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley in the iconic roles of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. On the contrary, of all the variations of Trek that have been made, the first one, now referred to as “The Original Series” or TOS for short, is still my favourite simply because I enjoy watching the interaction between these characters. In fact, it’s my belief that the only reason Star Trek has maintained interest for so long is not the often-repeated notion that it presented hope for the future; rather, it had to do with its charismatic and engaging characters presented within tales that peaked the imagination and, when it was really good, offered us glimpses into humanity’s drives and motivations. Indeed, this is the reason why Shakespeare’s plays, set in time periods and social settings far removed from our own, as well as other literary works written centuries ago still hold up today – the characters that exist in these works cast light on the nature of humanity and our interpersonal relationships, something today’s audience can still relate to and find much relevance in.

Sure, many Trekkies have complained that Abrams has Click here to continue reading »”Star Trek XI – The Anticipation Grows . . .”

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