For some time, it has been argued that stories articulated by leaders are an important vehicle for exercising influence, but stories of leadership might also serve as a means for developing leadership potential. One critical activity involved in leadership is vision formation, which involves constructing and communicating a future state that guides followers in “making sense” of complex organizational events. Like leader visions, analyzing stories also, by nature, evokes sensemaking processes. As a result, analyzing stories of leadership may provide a natural means for practicing the art of sensemaking. In the present investigation, undergraduates were asked to read six short stories about incidents of either pragmatic or charismatic leadership in business settings. After reading each story, questions were asked to encourage sensemaking of story events, causes, and emotions. Participants were subsequently asked to formulate visions for leading a secondary school –– a transfer task. It was found that stronger visions were produced when participants were asked to analyze both story events and the causes of these events. The implications of these findings for the use of leadership stories in leader development initiatives are discussed.
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