Quiet Leadership: The Crayon Whisperer


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Forgive me for Geeking out a little on this one.

Sometimes, I wonder if God is an Introvert. Think about it: He prefers quiet one to one settings, He talks when we are ready to listen, He does not like to entertain us, He wrote things down for Moses rather than spend all day talking about it, and He commissioned the first travelling Art Gallery.

I find it funny how we always hear that the jobs that God “called” us to were the more extraverted, public type of jobs: pastors, teachers, and leaders. But in fact the first time God called a specific vocation, he called the people who swung hammers, held paintbrushes and made jewelry. You’ve got it: He called the Gypsies. Well not really, He called the Artists to create a portable meeting place while the Israelites were Boy Scouting it in the Desert for 40 years.

It’s like God is saying to us – “The first thing you get is the crayons, and then later I will give you the other stuff.” Hugh MacLeod in his superb article on “How to Be Creative” writes about what I like to call your inner Crayon Whisperer:

Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with books on algebra etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the creative bug is just a wee voice telling you, “I’d like my crayons back, please.”


I have heard it said that when God talks to you, he whispers. In our culture, there is a lot of noise and technology, but not much listening. Nowadays if people are quiet and tell us they are listening for the whispers, we tend to reach for the medication. Why not reach for the crayons instead?

Introverts are NOT more creative than extroverts. It’s just that introverts have an inner world that they spend a lot of time in. Their imagination is their workshop.

A number of years ago, one of my teams voted me “Most likely to doodle.” At first it felt insulted that other people thought I would rather draw than do serious things like talk in a meeting. Later, I realized that it was actually a compliment. Listening, drawing on your creative side (literally) and contributing when the conversation is ready is a way to stand out.

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To me, this means “Go ahead, be alone, be quiet, be yourself. And no matter what, listen to your Crayon Whisperer.”

Apple co-inventor, Steve Wozniak wrote about it in his memoir (as quoted by Cain, 2013, p. 73),

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me – they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost more like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee.

We are a social world. Teams and communication are essential for business, for leadership, for education and just about everything else.  There are, however, a lot of ways for introverts to lead while also being who they are.

For me, I need some quiet so I can listen to my inner Crayon Whisperer. Sometimes I close the door, go for a walk or hide out in a bathroom stall. It might mean doodling in a meeting or when I am on the phone. Please, don’t mistake the doodling for checking out. For introverts, where creativity happens, we are listening.

Please, give us back the Crayons!

Keep it real.

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Quiet Leader Links:

Check other articles in the series on Quiet Leadership here: the Quiet Leadership Manifesto, The Imposter Syndrome, The Top Ten Reasons Listening is Better than Talking, Seat Work (boring title, but amazing post… so says my Publicist/Daughter), How being a Quiet Leader almost became a DSM diagnosis, The Silent Superpower, Why Superman is a Terrible Leader, and Learning from our Mistakes.


(I am now part of Amazon’s Affiliate program. I receive a referral fee if you purchase a resource through one of links in the article. It is just one more way you can support my blog.)

Cain, S. (2013). Quiet. New York: Broadway Books.

MacLeod, H. (Oct 19, 2004.) How to be creative. Changethis.com, Issue 6. http://changethis.com/manifesto/show/6.HowToBeCreative

If you like what I have said, get The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

6 thoughts on “Quiet Leadership: The Crayon Whisperer

  1. Never heard about the “traveling art gallery” before but like the term very much. Definitely lots of artists in those scriptures. Good article – God always speaks to me in my quietness, too. Good job of making people think – way tooooooooooo much talking goin’ on!


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