The Shadow Side of Leadership

In the pursuit of self-mastery and gaining personal power, it’s important to know that you will encounter challenges. Sometimes these challenges are external circumstances that demand you stretch yourself in a new manner. Other times, the challenges are internal and will pit your current beliefs and values against your current reality.

Whether your challenges are internal or external, how you address them will set you on a specific course of behaviors, actions, and consequences. If you encounter these challenges without a level of personal awareness or insight, the consequences can be destructive. This destruction can range from a mild neglect of business matters, to harming the company as a whole.

In your experience, you’ve no doubt seen or experienced poor leadership choices, either by your own hand or someone else’s. You must learn to see these choices through a different lens, looking at negative consequences of leadership in a new way: as a learning opportunity.

You may or may not have heard the term ‘shadow side’ before. Do you remember first time you actually knew you had a literal shadow? I remember being a young girl playing in our basement (I was from the Midwest, during storms, you played down there a lot) and noticing that, depending on where I played within the light, I could cast various lengths of shadows upon the wall. I danced with the shadows, tried to outmaneuver them, in awe that they mimicked me so very precisely at certain angles, but completely disappear in full direct light. Today, the word ‘shadow’ has a different meaning for me, but as I watch both myself and other leaders in play, I like to keep in mind how I originally approached mine. It was an aspect of myself, yet somehow separate. Parts of it grew larger or smaller depending on how I moved.

For our purposes, ‘shadow’ refers to the less conscious, unintended, and sometimes negative side of a behavior or pattern. It’s an aspect of ourselves that we don’t fully own up to because it causes us some shame, fear, or worry. We’ve forgotten how to play with our shadows. A shadow side can be an amazing mirror, and offer the chance for growth, integration, and maturation. They can show us internal strengths and assets that were unknown to us, misused, or distorted. They indicate aspects of ourselves that could use improvement and, if not too out of balance, they can add character, making us interesting people. The shadow can be a doorway to our greatest gifts.

Taking on the role of leader within an organization or community will automatically test how well balanced you are in each of the Algorithms. If you are out of balance, your shadow side appears. Why? Because you are evolving something, you have people around you, you’re dealing with dynamic systems, and you’re trying to create movement results. Any one of those factors, let alone the combination, may highlight your shadow. So, let’s take advantage of it!

Contact Kathleen Joy, CEO of Lumiere Work to learn more