The Gallery of Shadows – Part 1

In the previous few blogs (here and here), 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.

“The Hockey Goon”

I was hired by a large Silicon Valley firm to help integrate a new senior leader to the organization. The company was in expansion mode and needed to recruit and align new teams of engineers on a worldwide basis. “Boris” seemed to be the perfect man for the job. He was a brilliant catch; one of the best experts in his field, direct, precise, and highly sought after for his innovative solutions in engineering processes. It was his first time being in a leadership role in a global organization.

Boris was on the job about four months when I got the call. The HR rep was concerned about how he was integrating into the company. “Culture clash” is a frequently sited symptom I hear about when a new leader struggles to adapt or adjust to company norms, values, politics, and behaviors. It appears that Boris was experiencing some of that. His colleagues were having a difficult time trusting him and were upset at the immediate changes he implemented. Yet his bosses were pleased with what they were hearing, as Boris did have some great ideas to offer and frankly, they just spent a fortune to get him.

Boris used a ‘my way or the highway’ approach and literally didn’t care how anyone else reacted to his direction. Because he was so very smart and produced good business results, he got away with never having to examine the cost of this behavior. He believed he could get the outcomes the CEO wanted if everyone would only step in line.

In interviews I had with his staff, I often heard the word ‘intimidation’. Boris had power and he used it bluntly. I saw the problem clearly when he showed up to a coaching session with a big black eye and a grin. Boris was a hockey player and had got into a fight on the ice the night. It was a point of pride for him to have taken out the other player and have the marks to prove it. He enjoyed winning a good fight. I needed to dig no further to understand what his employees were so concerned about.

Boris has no awareness that his use of power in this setting was no longer effective. He could use intimidation in the smaller companies he had worked in, but in this larger, global organization, he just couldn’t bully everyone. He was not going to be the strongest guy on the ice for much longer.

Unfortunately, Boris did not accept any of my feedback on his leadership style. Months later, the work product was suffering because collaboration between his engineering group and sales and marketing became extremely strained. Boris didn’t understand the price that his lack of collaboration and trust cost him. Finally, the company decided that he had to go. So, because of his blindness to his shadow side, not only did Boris’ career hit a setback (no more global organizations for him), but he also created tremendous strife, stress, and ill-will amongst the employees, in addition to literal employee and downtime costs.

Contact Kathleen Joy, CEO of Lumiere Work to learn more.