In the previous few blogs, we have been examining the importance of knowing your “shadow side”, and the negative side effects that can come having no awareness of those patterns and behaviors.
In the next few blogs, we will be examining the negative consequences of leader’s “shadow sides” that I have personally witnessed in my work as an executive coach. I’ve made them vague to protect each leaders’ identity, so names and industries have been altered. These are vivid examples of what can happen when one does not pay attention to the shadow side of your Archetypal Blueprint pattern.
Let me say that these people are not ‘bad’. These were leaders who were doing their best, but acting out of a lack of self-knowledge and mastery. When a challenging opportunity hit them, they dug into preservation mode without any true reflection or choice.
“In the corner stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade.”
“Stephen” came from a modest Midwestern family background and managed his way through college on the east coast by boxing. The discipline and demands the sport made on his body suited his competitive drive and he excelled. He was also very astute and knew how to impress those around him. He could instantly present himself in a manner in which people would immediately accept him as ‘one of their own’.
Stephen was a very ambitious and a smart numbers guy and he found a job in an investment banking firm in New York. He was very successful, became a partner after 10 years and made some very big money. He married a beautiful and accomplished woman, had some wonderful children, and lived in a gorgeous home. Everything looked perfect. Then on September 11, 2001, his world changed radically. His firm was based in the towers and many, many of his colleagues and friends lost their lives.
Stephen had some counseling after the attack but his best coping device appeared to be throwing himself into his work to find the next level of success. A year after 9/11, he decided to move from the East Coast to the San Francisco with his wife and kids. Getting away from the trauma and daily grieving seemed a smart thing to do. He needed to escape, go west and start over. He opened up a satellite office and established a new home and life.
Stephen’s drive for discipline and control increased. He needed things to look right, be in order, and for appearances be perfect and spotless. The demands he placed on himself and those around him increased. There was little tolerance for errors or messes, either at work and home. He could not process everything that he was feeling inside, so he focused on the external instead. His shadow side.
To work out some of the tension he was feeling, he got back into boxing. He became obsessed hanging out with a younger crowd involved in that sport, and tried to fit in with them. Stephen spent less and less time at home, and when he was there, he came down as a harsh disciplinarian. He started neglecting his wife and kids, preferring the company of his new social crowd and a series of other competitive sports. He started having affairs, finally bringing matters to a head in his marriage. A bitter divorce broke up the household.
After the split, he started to spent even less time in the office, and when he was there, was abrupt and angry with colleagues. A few big deals fell through, but he always knew how to deflect the blame. He was a big enough producer to keep the guys in NYC off his back, but the folks in his office were really on their own. Stephen contributed as little as possible to the growth or maintenance of his organization. And that is his life. Even though he still kept up appearances, he is probably the most discontent and unhappy man I’ve ever met.