Published: May 1, 2019 By

A well told story is capable of transcending a listener from actively engaging to living in someone else’s experience. A vivid description can help set the scene. A change in tone from a whisper to a loud boom right after a long pause can build great suspense. It can provide the same thrill and stomach drop that you feel as a rollercoaster creeps slowly up the incline, then in an instance, you breach the peak and the wind is taken from you as you realize you’re flying upside down at 60 miles per hour, hands in the air, screaming with fear and joy!

Thrills are not the only benefit of a well told story. Stories can make us laugh, cry, or send shivers down our back. The point is, stories make us feel emotion and a stronger connection toward others.

It’s the reason why we all read books, go to movies, or watch TV. Humans want to feel connected, needed, and understood. And humans are wired to learn from people who look like them. It’s a superficial, quick, and easy way to gain that understanding. However, if we only learn from people who look like us, we’re really not living to our full potential.

The reality is that we all have really important, formative experiences that continue to mold who we are, what we stand for, what we wish for the world. Sometimes, we have the opportunity to share those stories with friends, peers, mentors, or colleagues, but often times, topics can either be seen as taboo or not relevant. Sometimes we get insecure and are not comfortable sharing a vulnerable moment because we’re not sure how it’s going to be received.

Change does not come without discomfort. To learn about different points of view and diverse cultures, we need a sliver of comfort to ask the uncomfortable questions on topics that are foreign to us. Our inner circles must crack open to allow something new or of a diverse background to enter. Finding these entry points though is often difficult, and unnatural. When manufactured, it can feel fake. A well told story can create that space.

A well told story can create that opening for others, either of a similar or more diverse background, to enter, to learn more from someone who does not look like you.

A well told story can serve as the launching point to actually implementing the diversity and inclusion changes that every business, school, and community strives to achieve.

A well told story is a marketplace to catalyze change.

What is Leeders of Tomorrow?

Leeders of Tomorrow (LOT) Episodes, a new student-led program at the Leeds School of Business, where MBA students come to share a personal, more vulnerable story with their community – peers, professors, administrators, and community members, aims to be just that – a marketplace to catalyze change.

The currency of the event is vulnerable, well told stories, in return for openness, acceptance, and learning.

Founders Nick Campion and Kate Wren, soon-to-be 2019 MBA graduates from the Leeds School of Business, joined forces with Chrysanthia Cheung- Lau, a 2020 MBA candidate, to help highlight the power of story-telling to build deeper connections. Chrysanthia started the @LeedersofTomorrow Instagram, modeled after Humans of New York.  After watching numerous TED Talks and having a passion to connect with other classmates, Nick was inspired to create a storytelling event where students can network with each other beyond the classroom.  With the help of Kate and some guidance from the Humans of Owen program at Vanderbilt University, they created LOT Episodes. Each episode is an event that gives ten students a five-minute platform to share a story - one that does not typically come out at a TNO (Thursday Night Out) or at a professional business meeting.

LOT Episodes are a whole community event, facing the typical supply-demand challenge of any marketplace. While the event requires courageous students (the supply) to come prepared to share a personal story, the event would not be possible without the Leeds community (the demand) coming out to listen.

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The Leeds community gathering to support the Leeders of Tomorrow speakers

Combining several marketing tactics with beer and appetizers made LOT: Episode 1, which was held at West Flanders Brewing on Wednesday, April 17th, a smashing success! With 8 scheduled speakers, 1 impromptu performance, and 40 people in attendance – stories were told, laughs were had, and tears were shared! There were twists and turns that left shivers down your spine and our community became stronger. 

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Scott Ibaraki speaking at LOT: Episode 1

Our incredible LOT: Episode 1 story tellers included Nick Campion, Scott Ibaraki, Shalmali Gopinath, George Cherry, Ryan Nelson, Sarah Newman, Elise Collins, Ben Rotstein and Kate Wren. With only five minutes on the stand, they brought all the emotions! The event could not have been such a success without them and their courage – not knowing exactly who was going to show up or how the audience would receive their stories!





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LOT: Episode 1 speakers (L-R): Ben Rotstein, George Cherry, Sarah Newman, Scott Ibaraki, Shalmali Gopinath, Kate Wren, Ryan Nelson, and Nick Campion (featuring MBAA President, James Drumm)

LOT: Episode 2 on Tuesday, April 30th featured more compelling stories from Lizzy Grater, KJ Jungne, Lindsay Randall, Michael Kimmelman, Matt Walker, Evan Peleaux, Zakar Kravtsov, and Chrysanthia Cheung-Lau.

As Nick and Kate graduate, they are working to turn LOT Episodes over to the Class of 2020. Stay tuned for more information on LOT: Episode 3 – coming to you in Fall 2019!