Acuff’s Narrative Intelligence

For a transformational leader, follower compliance is not a sufficient end goal, rather it is more vital there is a shift in the beliefs, needs, and values of followers which lead to goal achievement (Kuhnert, 1987, p. 648). Such shifts require a relationship of mutual stimulation and elevation that results in followers becoming leaders and leaders becoming moral agents (Burns, 2010, p.4). In order for followers and leaders to see themselves in an elevated future reality, it requires a clear concept of themselves as individuals, which can be realized through storytelling (Denning, 2009, p. 44). For transformational leaders, this makes storytelling, or having narrative intelligence, vital to their effectiveness.

Narrative intelligence is having “an understanding of and capacity to navigate through the world of interacting narratives” (Denning, 2009, p. 113), and knowing how to use the elements of story to connect with listeners and judge how they will respond (Denning, 2009, p. 213). This is not natural though, since most education experiences and business settings focus on the presentation of and reliance on empirical data (Denning, 2009, p. 44).

Narrative intelligence is the keystone of Jon Acuff’s career. From his early days writing the blog “Stuff Christian’s Like” to his days telling the story for companies such as The Home Depot, Bose and Staples (Acuff, 2014), Acuff has been using narrative intelligence. Most recently he left his position with Dave Ramsey where he authored the books Quitter and Start telling the stories of how to find a dream job, overcome fear, and become awesome in the journey of life (Acuff, 2013). It is through his ability to weave a story and pull elements that connect with his audience, that Acuff has effectively entertained, encouraged, and compelled people to live life to its fullest the way God intended.


Acuff, J. (2013). Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters. Brentwood, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

Acuff, J. (2014). Jon Acuff – Author | Speaker | Awesome. Retrieved May 28, 2015, from

Burns, J. M. (2010). Leadership (1 edition). New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Denning, S. (2007). The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative (1 edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kuhnert, K. W., & Lewis, P. (1987). Transactional and Transformational Leadership: A Constructive/Developmental Analysis. Academy of Management Review, 12(4), 648–657.


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