NUGGET: Become increasingly aware of the “shadow” that goes with formal leadership roles.  It can derail your best leadership intentions – but also holds immense potential energy for leverage, learning and legacy!

It was 1958, my 8TH grade (Standard 6) year.  I was part of the oldest group in the school.   We had all looked forward to this time.  Some of us, including me were asked to be on the school patrol.  Wow!  I was psyched – my first formal power role.  Like others on the patrol, I was given a silver badge mounted on a thick brown belt that I wore diagonally across my chest and around my waist.  Like others in the patrol I carried a flag to wave in front of traffic at our crossing-corners.   But there was more..  with that badge and that flag, I temporarily stepped into another persona –  one with powers beyond my being as a freckle-faced 14 year old with a brace on her leg.  In that role, I felt super-responsible, and, I must admit looking back, just a cut above the kids who depended on my guidance.  I felt that extra surge of POWER!

At the age of 14, I experienced one of my first lessons about the power of position: it carried an energy of its own.  This energy that goes with formal authority has been a major focus of my work for decades, and continues to both disturb and fascinate me.

We’d like to think that leadership is a rational process – something we can teach behaviorally and conceptually – according to a formula.  But once power differences enter the picture, all bets on rational solutions are off.  Actual and perceived power differences affect how everybody behaves, often replacing important and even shared goals of the business with defensive and self-optimizing maneuvers. In psychological terms, the SHADOW is a constant factor when power is involved!

The shadow is the metaphorical place where we stow away potentialities and parts of ourselves, organizations, and society that we don’t want to acknowledge or are afraid to let loose.  We all have a shadow.  Like our shadow in the sun, this shadow always accompanies us (there is a reason that non-humans in literature – zombies, vampires walk in the sun without shadows!)  The shadow is part of our human condition – a vital part; no one is immune.

For people with formal authority, the shadow plays out on multiple stages.  Formal leaders carry their own personal shadow, but they also wear the mantle of their role – and that mantle comes with its own shadow side:  formal authority in one organization may imply command and control – thus marginalizing participation and relegating it to the shadow.  In another organization, formal authority may have a paternalistic flavor that relegates individual initiative to the shadows where it begins to express itself as blame and energy diverted to non-work ventures (shopping on the Internet?).

There is a lot of energy in the shadow.  The first step to unleashing it is to recognize it.

NUGGET: Become increasingly aware of the “shadow” that goes with formal leadership roles.  It can derail your best leadership intentions – but also holds immense potential energy for leverage, learning and legacy!

*To see how the  Shadow operates in leadership, get a copy of The Shadow Side of Power: Lessons For Leaders

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