Published October 2, 2019

Four Leadership Lessons From a Professional Filmmaker

Effective leaders tell compelling stories.

You may not think of yourself as a storyteller, but leaders tell stories every day, from vision-casting new projects, to quarterly reviews with stakeholders, to regular staff meetings. Some stories happen over the course of a few hours. Some unfold over the course of months or years as you lead your team through a capital campaign or a pivot in your team structure.

You may not think of yourself as a storyteller, but leaders tell stories every day…

Each of these critical moments is a story; the question is, “How are you telling it, and is it working?”

Think of the last time that you were on the edge of your seat during a movie, or the last time a book had you captivated to the point where your surroundings disappeared. What if we were able to lead our teams in a way that caused them to lean in, to focus, and to fully engage?

OX Creative FilmmakersFor the last 7 years, our team at OX Creative has been telling stories in partnership with The Global Leadership Summit. Our journeys have taken us from Jordan to Uganda, Chile to Portugal, and beyond. We’ve told direct, personal stories of leaders compelled by a “Grander Vision,” and introduced the Summit audience to each year’s speaker lineup through an artist’s paintbrush or the shifting of tectonic plates.

In my experience as a filmmaker, I’ve learned four key lessons about what makes a compelling story, and I believe these principles can be applied in every space, from the screening room to the board room.

Here are four ways to immediately up your storytelling game:

1. Don’t Waste the Start.

The way you begin a story is the most critical part. Research has shown that you have only 10 seconds to captivate your audience with a video before they click away. How can you structure your next meeting in a way that captivates the room right from the beginning – before people start checking out? How will you grab their attention and clearly show “You’re not going to want to miss this…”?

2. Use Tension to Pull Your People In.

Every good story has tension. There is a problem that your organization, project, or meeting exists to fix. What is that problem? Why is it critical that it gets fixed? What are the earth-shattering consequences that could arise if your team fails their critical mission? Create tension and inspire the need for a solution.

3. Use Every Moment.

When we’re editing a film, if there’s a shot, a line, or a pause that doesn’t intentionally serve a purpose, we cut it. This can be a tough call, but as Jim Collins taught all of us, “good” can often be the “enemy of great.” Unintentional content creates subconscious confusion and disengagement, so if there’s not a reason for it, just cut it. Otherwise your risk doing damage to what really needs to be communicated.

4. End with Emotion.

In today’s world, if you can get a viewer to stick around all the way to the end of a film, you’ve earned their trust. You better make it your goal to pay off that trust with a memorable finale. Your stories are the same. Maya Angelou famously said “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If you want people to remember what you are communicating, then you need to leave them feeling.


OX Creative FilmmakersStories carry power. They carry influence. If you want to be a more effective leader, you must learn to tell more compelling stories, in your work, your organization, and your life.

In our work with the Summit, we’ve seen first-hand their genuine fight to make our world better through better leaders. They believe, as we do, that there is a story in every leader, in every force of influence, that has the potential to change the world.

The world needs your story. Tell it well.

OX is a full-service creative agency based in Chicago, IL, dedicated to maximizing the impact of brands doing good in the world through effective storytelling. Their work includes partnerships with National Geographic, Lululemon, World Vision and the Global Leadership Network. Find more insights on leadership, storytelling, and the creative process at:

About the Author
OXHeadshots-Corry Weins

Corry Wiens

Head of Production

OX Creative

Corry Wiens is the Head of Production for OX Creative, based in Chicago, Illinois. He is an award-winning director, driven to tell human stories for powerful impact. When he isn’t on set or in the edit suite, Corry loves spending time with his wife, Lauren, and their three kids, Judah, Everett, and Emmeline.