The Leadership Shadow
We all, at some point, find ourselves “leading”. A time when others have an expectation of you knowing what to do, in moving forward. Some garner this role naturally others reluctantly and still others avoid the process all together. Most leaders are forged from need, they may or may not have been trained.
I’m not really referring to titles, just those who have stepped in and filled a gap of need so often that now others see them as a leader. In filling these gaps they have developed a tool shed of wisdom that constantly grows.
Over the past 30 years I have come to understand that leadership casts a shadow. This shadow isn’t something we create, but because we are moving towards the light in front of us, natural shadow appears.
Being in front and navigating new terrain is challenging enough, but our shadow sometimes casts across the path of others. The shadow is amoral and natural. Like money though it can be misused are seen as something different than intended.
A few years ago I had to admit to myself that the shadow exists. I neither wanted the role of leadership or intended to shade others in my shadow. In general we all had great jobs, customers and a culture that really focused on families. The goals of customer satisfaction and profits were pretty straightforward. I assumed.
Accidental or intentional leadership places you in a position where you will be determining in which direction others will travel. You will either find yourself alone ahead of everyone or just in front casting the shadow. Out in front to far and your burdens are heavy with no support. Close and casting the shadow, you will hear the chatter of performance. The group or individual that you lead doesn’t look through the binoculars of tomorrow. They see the present and the shadow you have cast.
How you manage this shadow is one of the keys to fulfillment. In some cases people need to be released from the shadow so that they can find their own point position or a shadow they can get behind. More often than not though the shadow is misinterpreted.
Without the binoculars others may not understand why you turned left or right. How you approach this chatter will ultimately determine goal attainment. No matter the goal, family reconciliation or getting to Mars. A goal you set will ultimately set you out in front.
There are several ways to address the shadow causing performance chatter.
The first two are self explanatory and easy ways to continue forward. However you will find the chatter does reduce because you have moved too far forward. In some cases we need to scout out what the binoculars have shown just to experience in real time what we have seen. Hang to long out at the perimeter though and the chatter will grow, even though you can't hear.
Notwithstanding the first two, the attempt to understand the performance chatter that the shadow produces, offers opportunity. Helping those correlate your choices into their present need can often build a strong corporate culture. This benefit is not often experienced, personally, by the leader. It will be experienced in a culture of trust where goal attainment accelerates. In most cases this element of trust will not be attributed to you personally.
Regardless of how you find yourself within a leadership paradigm know that a shadow exists and that others may be standing there wondering how they fit or supporting you blindly. Sharing enough of your leadership view so that others will follow is sometimes complicated, but well worth the effort.