Secret Language of Leadership by Stephen Denning

How Leaders Inspire Change Through Narrative

The book introduces the concept of narrative intelligence – an ability to understand and act and react agilely in the quicksilver world of interacting narratives.

It shows why this is key to the central task of leadership, what its dimensions are, and how you can measure it.

The book’s lucid explanations, vivid examples and practical tips are essential reading for CEOs, managers, change agents, marketers, salespersons, brand managers, politicians, teachers, parents-anyone who is setting out to the change the world.


Preface: My Leadership Journey.

Part One: What Is Transformational Leadership?

Introduction: Ten Mistakes Transformational Leaders Make.

1 The Secret Language of Leadership.

Part Two: The Language of Leadership: Key Enablers.

2 Articulating a Clear, Inspiring Goal.

3 The Leader’s Own Story: Committing to the Goal.

4 Mastering the Audience’s Story.

5 Cultivating Narrative Intelligence.

6 Telling Truthful Stories.

7 Leadership Presence: The Body Language of Leadership.

Part Three: The Language of Leadership: Key Steps.

8 Getting People’s Attention.

9 Stimulating Desire.

10 Reinforcing with Reasons.

11 Continuing the Conversation.

12 Epilogue.

Appendix 1: Presentation to the Change Management Committee of the World Bank: April 1996.

Appendix 2: Templates and Exercises.

Appendix 3: What’s Your Narrative Intelligence?



About the Author. Index.



Stephen Denning is senior fellow at the James MacGregor Burns Leadership Academy at the University of Maryland and the author of The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling and Squirrel Inc. from Jossey-Bass.

He is former program director, knowledge management, at the World Bank. In 2003 he was named as one of the world’s Top Two Hundred Business Gurus.

His articles have appeared in leading business publications such as Harvard Business Review and Strategy & Leadership.


“…an educational and informative book that can be effortlessly read from cover to cover.” (Inside Knowledge, September 2007)

“…if there’s one person who knows more than anyone else about the power of business narrative it’s…Steve Denning.” (, Friday 7th December 2007)

“This book’s lucid explanations, vivid examples and practical tips are essential reading…” (, Tuesday 4th December 2007)

“…an array of glowing testimonials from truly famous people. Definitely one for those interested in transformational change.” (Strategic Communication Management, December 2007)

“If business leaders do not immediately grasp the vital insights offered by this book, both they and their organisations are doomed.”–Stefan Stern, Financial Times

“Steve Denning is the Warren Buffett of business communication. He sees things others don’t and is able to explain them so the rest of us can understand.”–Chip Heath, co-author of Made to Stick, Professor of Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University

“I highly recommend you get it today and read it tonight. Tomorrow will be an entirely different kind of day if you do.”—Jim Kouzes, Co-author of the best-selling, The Leadership Challenge, and A Leader’s Legacy

“The Secret Language of Leadership has been instrumental in helping me overcome the challenges of rapid growth and intense competition. It’s all about the story.”–Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix Inc.

“I don’t think I have ever read a more compelling preface. And best of all, the advice Denning gives to the reader about speaking and writing is exemplified in the way he has written this impressive book.”–James MacGregor Burns, distinguished senior scholar, James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, University of Maryland, and author of Leadership

“The Secret Language of Leadership is not only the best analysis I have seen of how and why leaders succeed or fail, it’s highly readable, as well as downright practical. It should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in engaging a company with big ideas who understands that leaders live and die by the quality of what they say.”–Richard Stone, story analytics master, i.d.e.a.s

Format: Hardback, 320 pages
Other Information: Illustrations
Published In: United States, 23 October 2007
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Inc.,U.S.
ISBN: 0787987891
EAN: 9780787987893
Dimensions: 23.0 x 163.0 x 2.0 centimeters (0.51 kg)