Your Leadership Shadow


As a leader, do you ever wonder how you’re perceived by others?

Well, as a leader, everything you do is seen and everything you say is heard which sends a message to the people you lead. So, what messages are you sending and how are these perceived? Ask yourself the question 'do I consciously manage the messages I send or do they just happen?'


leadership shadow


Everything you say and do casts a shadow which is seen by others and this is referred to as your Leadership Shadow: this is the shadow you cast every day as the people you lead see you go about your life and work. You cannot not cast a shadow and meaning is made from what you don’t do as well as what you do do!

Below is a photo of a Brocken Spectre, where the shadow of the mountain and mountaineer appear on the mist surrounded by a halo. To the mountaineer, this is a rare and mystical event which is admired and respected; I believe your Leadership Shadow should be afforded the same respect.


Brocken Sphere


As a leader, it is important that you are authentic, being true to yourself and working to your strengths. Only then will it be possible to sustain yourself over time, as being authentic requires less energy than trying to be something you’re not! Nevertheless, within this authenticity, there are opportunities to manage your Leadership Shadow, to ‘be yourself, more, with skill’ (Goffee & Jones   Why Should Anyone be Led by You?).

People get to know who you are through observing your consistent behaviours:

  •   What you Say
  •   How you Act
  •   What you Prioritise
  •   What you Measure.

When all these are in alignment, you will be seen to be congruent and therefore more authentic.

Each of these areas has specific actions that can be taken to ensure they are aligned.



Some simple questions can be used to flush out whether you have a congruent Leadership Shadow. For example, regularly asking yourself some of the questions below will help you to identify what you focus on:

  • Where do you spend time? What falls off your calendar?
  • What questions do you frequently ask?  What questions are never asked?    
  • What gets followed up? What is forgotten?
  • What is important enough to call a meeting about? What isn't?
  • At the end of meetings, what is or isn't emphasised? What language is used?


You can then ask yourself the question ‘Are these the areas I want to focus on?’ and ‘Does this focus cast the right Leadership Shadow?'.

A Congruent Leadership Shadow would be where:

I say that people development is important (What I say)


I spend time developing myself (How I act)


An Incongruent one would be where:

I keep cancelling Performance Development meetings at the last minute (What I prioritise)


My team have only activity objectives, no development ones (What I measure)


How congruent is the Leadership Shadow you cast? What would your team say?


I have found the Leadership Shadow to be a powerful concept for leaders thinking about how they’re perceived by others.

Remember: Everything you do is seen; everything you say is heard.


So, take the time to consider what shadow you cast. Is it the shadow you would like to cast or would you make changes? What changes would you make?


Look out for September’s blog on getting the best from coaching in the workplace.  


Posted by Mark Procter





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