Leadership Approaches – Narrative Leadership

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Part of the following ministry resources: Christian Leadership, Empowerment, Transformational Leadership.


Narrative Leadership identifies with the personal and collective stories of followers. As leaders listen, they increasingly appreciate the history, the common themes, the diverse elements, and the boundaries of the community. The leader’s personal story joins with theirs to create a richer narrative. This requires a highly relational and appreciative leadership style. Leaders walk alongside others to shape and experience a shared future. Narrative also affects how one introduces change in keeping with a people’s history. This usually implies a long-term developmental path.

Narrative Leadership as Empowerment and Transformational Leadership

Narrative leadership reflects aspects of empowerment such as Max De Pree’s “management by walking around.” Yet, most transformational and empowering models, though participatory, assign a more influencing role to leaders. They place more urgency on the need for change than narrative leadership may facilitate. Narrative leadership calls leaders to collect vision long-term rather than to challenge people by casting their own vision. This may be more appropriate for some established churches that prefer consensus-based approaches.

Caveat is needful, however. Ed Friedman, in Failure of Nerve, warns against over-emphasis on empathy and consensus. Consensus models, if used improperly, could devalue well-defined, principled leadership and shield people from the challenges of deep change.

Ministry Resources on Narrative Leadership

There are many books on narrative leadership. The following are published by the Alban Institute, and are directed toward congregations.

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