Famed storyteller, Garrison Keillor, once said (Steve Kraske, “Lake Wobegon? I Know Exactly Where That Is” The Kansas City Star, July 19, 2013, pp. A1, A9):
“I find that if I leave out enough details in my stories, the listener will fill in the blanks.” (p. A9)
Having been a listener to many of Keillor’s stories, I know exactly what he describes. My imagination fills in the blanks. That very dynamic is what endears his stories to his audience. Keillor recognizes the value of the details and the audience’s role in creating them. He allows his listeners to “opt in” and in so doing the resulting story is richer for it.
This dynamic is a fantastic lesson in creativity. In an analogous fashion, it is also a fantastic lesson in leadership. The best leaders know how to empower their people. They understand when their people self-discover, they will grow and perform more effectively than when they are simply told what to do.
Some leaders just tell their people what to do. I do not consider them true leaders. While showing the way is important at times, much more important is discovering the way. The leader should paint the big picture, define the parameters, and then turn the people loose to perform. The true leader knows his or her followers will, “fill in the blanks.”