Great leaders tell stories for a whole generation


Religious leaders understand that true power of stories. One, Rabbi Lord Sacks, spoke this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about exactly that.


He didn’t talk about the Torah, or any other religious text, but about a classic children’s book whose author died last week. It’s a short book, with large illustrations, and takes about 10 minutes to read.

In the story, a girl opens the door to a figure who is potentially very alarming.

Readers often asked the author if one of the central figures in this mild children’s story represented the Gestapo.

No, she said.

But that doesn’t really matter to Lord Sacks’s argument. The point he made is that the story gives courage.

That’s what stories do.

I really sat up when he quoted the Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner: “Great leaders are the people who tell the story that explains a generation to itself.”

I’ve heard a bit about Gardner before now, but this made me want to find out more.

Lord Sacks posted his short talk on his website. Before you click, can you guess what children’s story he was talking about?