Podcasts and the Value of Story

We talk a lot at LeaderShape about the value of story. Our stories are powerful tools that help explain our perspective, provide examples, and create bonds through shared experiences. When we hear someone’s story, we often feel connected to them or at least can better understand them.

It’s my own love of story that got me interested in podcasts. I often listen to podcasts while I’m driving, grocery shopping, or going for a walk. The stories shared in podcasts can be powerful examples, provide information on a topic you’re interested in, or simply entertain you for a few minutes. Perhaps you can also connect with experiences from your own life as you listen to some of these stories.


Here is a list of some of my favorite podcasts:

This American Life: Ira Glass narrates this podcast from WBEZ in Chicago. This hour-long podcast, told in 3 or 4 acts, pulls together stories within a theme each week. The themes range from anger and forgiveness, to heroes and summer camp. This American Life is a gateway podcast … it’s easy to listen to and hinges on the power of story. One of my favorite episodes is called Good Guys 2015 (in particular, Act Three).

Serial: I am not an early adopter. Season 1 of Serial had totally wrapped up before I started listening. But I’m glad I got on board with this pop-culture guilty pleasure. Season 1 of Serial was about a murder that took place in Baltimore in 1999. Sarah Koenig, the host of the podcast, dug into trial records, newspaper articles, and interviews with the accused. I find it fascinating that a podcast helped bring attention to a (potentially) wrongfully accused man who was recently granted a new trial.

FiveThirtyEight Elections: I’m a political junky, but sometimes what’s being reported in the news gets on my nerves. I like this podcast, run by Nate Silver, notable statistical wunderkind, for a purely empirical data perspective on polling. Nate and his team recently launched a little spin-off within the podcast called Kitchen Table Politics about things affecting everyday Americans like retirement and paying for college. The content is a little dense, but the information is valuable.

The West Wing Weekly: The West Wing was the greatest show ever on television. Period. So when this podcast came out – a weekly episode-by-episode discussion – I was super excited. It is AWESOME! It’s like a book club, but about a show and in podcast form. So it’s not like a book club at all. But still! Josh Malina, who played Will Bailey on The West Wing, and Hrishikesh Hirway, a musician and composer, host the show and invite cast members and politicians to enrich the content. Season One just wrapped up and Season Two will start soon!

Song Exploder: Another podcast by Hrishikesh Hirway, this one is all about music! These short podcasts (about 15 minutes each) follow the process of one song’s creation. You get to hear the band talk about how the song came to be the version you know from the album. It’s a really wonderful way to learn about a band’s process and the importance of their lyrics, all through the power of story.

Human Race: Runner’s World magazine produces this podcast with stories about runners. I like these human interest stories about why people run, what struggles they’re running from, and what they’ve overcome because they run. There are some longer episodes (over 30 minutes) and some shorter “sprint” episodes (around 10 minutes). I particularly liked the shorter episode called The Ballad of Katy Schilly.

What podcasts do you listen to?
Share them with us in the comment section so we can check them out, too.


Abby Prince is the Director of Program Quality and Management at LeaderShape. She spent 13+ years in the corporate world as a communicator and analyst before taking the leap into the world of not-for-profit. She hasn’t wanted or needed to look back. Outside of her career, she enjoys creating memories with her nephews, reading big books, rescuing dogs, and spending time in the kitchen.

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