Steve Denning Profile

Master storyteller and leadership expert, Steve Denning has changed hundreds of organizations globally through his concept of radical management. Drawing from decades of directorial experience in the World Bank, Steve teaches groups how they can reinvent their organizational structure and communication style to create higher levels of satisfied employees and clients while generating greater profits.

Steve graduated from the University of Sydney and the University of Oxford with a background in psychology and law. After a few years of practicing law in his home country of Australia, he entered an extensive career at the World Bank, where he held a variety of leadership positions including Program Director for Knowledge Management, in which he utilized storytelling to revolutionize the organizational knowledge sharing program.

Following his departure from the World Bank, Steve put his ideas into print, publishing five books in leadership storytelling. 800-CEO-READ ranked two of his works, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management and The Secret Language of Leadership, among the top five books on management the year of their release.

Today Steve travels the world working with organizations of all types and sizes throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia. He shares his thoughts and ideas on management and leadership regularly as a blogger for Forbes.

  • View Extended/Alternate Bio

    Steve Denning is the author of the award-winning books, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Re-inventing the Workplace for the 21st Century (Jossey-Bass), The Secret Language of Leadership (Jossey-Bass), and The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling (Jossey-Bass).

    From 1996 to 2000, Steve was the Program Director, Knowledge Management at the World Bank where he spearheaded the organizational knowledge sharing program.

    In November 2000, Steve Denning was selected as one of the world’s ten Most Admired Knowledge Leaders (Teleos).

    He now works with organizations in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia on leadership, innovation, business narrative and most recently, radical management.

    His clients have included many organizations, large and small, around the world, including GE, IBM, Microsoft, McKinsey, Shell, Netflix, Bristol Myers Squibb, Deloitte, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Syngenta, Danfoss, McDonalds, Unilever, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott Laboratories, MWH, Ernst & Young, CRM Learning, Xerox, Oracle, Maritz, Target, Burns & McDonnell, Mitre Corporation, Innovation Council, Deluxe, Fetzer Foundation, Diageo (UK), UK Parliamentary Ombudsman, Nestle (Switzerland), Novo Nordisk (Denmark), International Energy Agency (Austria), Symbiosis (Austria), PMI (France), Ambrosetti (Italy), ARK group (UK, Asia, Australia), Air New Zealand, World Bank, UN, UNDP, US Army, USAID, CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, NetHope, The Brookings Institution, American Institute of Architects, California Workforce Association, CIA, NSA, NIMA, FAA, NY State Government, Oregon State Government, Australian government ministries, New Zealand ministries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Norway).

    In April 2003, Steve was ranked as one of the world’s Top Two Hundred Business Gurus by Davenport & Prusak, “What’s The Big Idea? (Harvard, 2003).

    Steve’s most recent book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Re-inventing the Workplace for the 21st Century was selected by 800-CEO-READ as one of the best five books on management. It offers a comprehensive guide to the reinventing the organization for the 21st Century.

    The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative was selected by the Financial Times and 800-CEO-READ as one of the best books on leadership. It is a comprehensive guide to transformational leadership, particularly how to use develop and use narrative intelligence to inspire enduring enthusiasm in any audience for your cause.

    In The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, Steve presents a comprehensive guide to the various ways in which leaders can use of storytelling to achieve a variety of organizational purposes, including spark action, communicate who they are, transmit the brand, transfer values, share knowledge, inspire collaboration, tame the grapevine and lead people into the future.

    The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge—Era Organizations (Butterworth Heinemann) describes how storytelling can serve as a powerful tool for organizational change and knowledge management.

    Squirrel Inc.: A Fable of Leadership and Storytelling (Jossey-Bass) discusses the seven highest value forms of organizational storytelling, about which there is already considerable advance praise.

    Another book, co-authored by Steve Denning along John Seely Brown, Katalina Groh and Larry Prusak is Storytelling in Organizations: How Narrative and Storytelling Are Transforming Twenty-first Century Management.

    Steve was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He studied law and psychology at Sydney University and worked as a lawyer in Sydney for several years. He did a postgraduate degree in law at Oxford University in the U.K. Steve then joined the World Bank where he worked for several decades in many capacities and held various management positions, including Director of the Southern Africa Department from 1990 to 1994 and Director of the Africa Region from 1994 to 1996. From 1996 to 2000, Steve was the Program Director, Knowledge Management at the World Bank.

    Steve was a Senior Scholar at the Burns Academy of Leadership at the University of Maryland from 2006-2009.

    In 2009, Steve was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls Colleges, Oxford University, UK.

    He has published a novel, The Painter, and a volume of poetry.

Steve Denning Speaking Videos

Bring Steve Denning to Speak Live at Your Event


Check Speaker Availability

Steve Denning's Speech Descriptions

Steve Denning capacitates groups with one of the most powerful tools available: storytelling. The ability to tell a story is an innate talent all humans possess; however the majority of people working in management are simply so wrapped up in a world of dry business linguistics that they’re out of touch with this simple but potent gift.

Steve teaches your group how to harness the power of narrative and adapt it to engage and connect with audiences in a business context, tailoring his workshops and programs specifically to meet your organization’s concerns and goals. In just a little bit of time Steve can turn your group into masters of storytelling and empowered communicators, equipped to make a bigger impact in presentations, marketing, and sales.

Arrange a Tailor-made Workshop
More and more organizations are realizing that stability and predictability are no longer reasonable assumptions. In fact the number one problem of today's managers is the difficulty in getting their organizations to adapt to a competitive environment that is neither stable nor predictable.

More and more organizations are realizing that storytelling can communicate complex new ideas and spark energetic action towards their implementation. They are realizing that storytelling is one of the few tools available for accomplishing a major transformation of the habits and culture of a whole group of people in short period of time.

More and more organizations are realizing that successful branding, marketing and selling depends on connecting and engaging with clients, which in turn depends on is founded on authentic storytelling. And that, in fact, storytelling is just the beginning. Beyond storytelling lies narrative intelligence—an ability to navigate the quicksilver world of interacting narratives, as discussed in Steve's new book, The Secret Language of Leadership.

Organizations are also recognizing that learning how to use business narrative doesn't involve elaborate expenditures or lengthy training. It can be mastered by a wide variety of individuals in a short period of time, because it draws on the latent capacity for storytelling that all human beings possess.

Organizations are realizing that their future is going to depend in part on the capability of their managers and staff to harness the power of storytelling.

A workshop tailored to your specific needs
You can arrange for Steve to come to your organization and work with your staff on-site to unlock the immense potential of storytelling to meet your organizational objectives.

A workshop might comprise Steve's involvement at five different levels, depending on the organization's needs:

  • a two-hour presentation and a discussion; or
  • a half-day workshop
  • a full-day workshop
  • a two-day workshop, aimed at exploring
  • a comprehensive communications support over a period of several weeks
  • The workshop should focus on whatever high priority challenges the organization is currently facing.

    That might include all or any of the following:

  • to learn the secret language of leadership, discovering how to incorporate storytelling and other communication techniques into a presentation that can move even cynical or skeptical audiences, including the four steps of the language of the leadership, and the six enabling conditions
  • to learn the art and discipline of springboard storytelling, using a simple 10-step template, to communicate complex ideas and spark enthusiasm in staff within the organization
  • showing staff involved in branding, marketing and selling how to use the power of business narrative to connect and engage with customers
  • launching knowledge management, using storytelling to transfer knowledge, both explicit and tacit; and cultivating knowledge sharing communities
  • enhancing collaboration and getting people working together, including accelerating collaboration in mergers and acquisitions
  • disarm negative stories and tame the grapevine with stories
  • show the way forward with stories about the future
  • The benefits of such workshops depend of course on how time participants are able to devote to learning the elements of business narrative. The following outcomes are typical:

  • participants develop an understanding of the potential importance of storytelling and the role of business narrative in leadership communication
  • participants significantly enhance their skills at in the use of business narrative to engage and connect with audiences
  • participants have exposure to various types of storytelling, and depending on the amount of time invested, develop capability to use these types of story
  • In addition, it needs to be recognized that storytelling's effectiveness depends not only on our intellect, but also our emotions, our creativity, and our willingness to renew ourselves. Storytelling elicits genuine authenticity in the storyteller as well as the listener. So at one level, storytelling is a tool, but it inevitably ends up as being more than that. It involves a fundamental rethinking of how to go about communicating in any setting.

    Steve Denning has given these workshops in major organizations in the public and private sector in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

    What People are Saying about Seeing Steve Speak

    Rating Entries

    I just watched this it was great the first time I ever heard Steve give a motivational speech was in the 1980’s when I was working at Viva Home Improvements I was fascinated then and very motivated when I left after his first speach I heard him speak many more times after that and took what I had learned and used that knowledge when I needed to motive staff from that day forward. Thank you for those days Steve. Sylvia Hend now Harvie


    The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management is a delight to read—articulate, provocative and illuminating. It isn’t merely radical, it’s revolutionary!”
        Peter Guber, CEO, Mandalay Entertainment Group

    The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management is an original and brilliant book which transforms ‘radical management’ into doable and, more important, indispensable management. Also an indispensable read!”
        Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business, University of Southern California

    “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, author of Made to Stick

    Have You Seen this Speaker? Leave a Star Rating.

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Books by Steve Denning:


    The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management

    Have you ever wondered why the workplace often feels like you’re living in a Dilbert cartoon? Have you ever wondered why only one in five workers is fully engaged in their work? Have you ever wondered why individual management fixes don’t stick? The fixes seem to work for a period, but they don’t take hold: the organization slides back into the old way of doing things, as by the force of gravity?

    Have you ever wondered what it would take to move your organization to a new level of productivity and innovation, not just as a short-term initiative, but on a permanent basis?

    The good news is that some organizations figured out how to do this. They’ve discovered how to subvert the world of Dilbert cartoons. They have found out how to get continuous innovation, and deep job satisfaction, and delighted customers, simultaneously and on a sustained basis.

    This way of managing is good news. It’s good for the organization, because it routinely leads to two-times and four-times gains in productivity. And it’s good for customers, because it generates a continuous stream of innovation and gets more value to those customers sooner. What’s more, it’s good for those doing the work: as one CEO told the author: “This way of managing appeals particularly to the new generation, They want autonomy. They want ownership. They want purpose. It makes sense to them. But it also resonates with older workers.”

    Moreover it busts the iron triangle. Most management fixes which make things better for the organization at the expense of the workers or the customers, or make things better for the workers at the expense of the organization, this new way of working—radical management—makes things better for all three—the organization, the workers and the customers simultaneously. It busts that iron triangle.


    The Secret Language of Leadership
    How do transformational leaders connect and engage with their audiences and inspire enduring enthusiasm for strange new ideas? In his exciting new book, The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative, business narrative expert Steve Denning explains why traditional approaches to leadership communication don’t work and reveals the hidden patterns that effective leaders use to spark change. He shows how anyone can inspire enduring enthusiasm for a cause, even in skeptical, cynical or even hostile audiences and provides a comprehensive guide to the nitty-gritty of transformational leadership.

    Sparking enduring enthusiasm for change is the principal and most difficult challenge faced by business communicators today. This presentation (and the book) is the first systematic account of how to go about 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.

    Related Speakers


    Need help filling the seats at your next meeting / event?

    Call us / email us / check availability and fee for your favorite speaker.

    Get in touch
    Call us: (760) 656-8770
    Toll free in the US: (877) 717-5327