The following passage is very old but quite profound. It situates leadership as having the potential to impact others both negatively and positively. Indeed, research shows that the number one reason employees leave a position is due to their immediate superior.William Q. Judge in The Leader’s Shadow (1999): Just as people cast physical shadows, they also cast psychological shadows (Jung 1923, 1933). Psychological shadows can provide much valuable information if we are creative enough to engage them directly in what has been called “shadow work” (Zweig & Wolf, 1997). Unlike conventional work, which focuses on material progress and tangible results, shadow work requires us to go within and learn from our inner being. Implicit to the shadow-work notion is the idea that a shadow is cast inside as well as outside of ourself. Although shadow work is difficult work-some say the most difficult work there is (Bly, 1988; Zweig & Wolf, 1997), the rewards that stem from it are enormous and ongoing. Everyone casts a shadow (Zweig & Wolf, 1997), but shadows created by individuals in leadership positions are particularly noteworthy (Palmer, 1994). Due to the glare focused on their elevated positions within organizations, leaders often cast the longest and darkest shadows. The metaphor of a physical shadow is a vivid one that reminds us that even though psychological shadow work requires individual effort, it often affects others in dramatic and unexpected ways. Parker Palmer (1994) defines a leader as “a person who has an unusual degree of power to project on other people his or her shadow or his or her light” (p. 24). Like our physical shadows, our psychological shadows are often projected unconsciously. Unlike physical shadows projected psychological shadows can do great harm to others if we are in leadership positions and our shadow is large and unrecognized. In other words, a leader is a person who has the opportunity to shape a group’s or an organization’s destiny so that the act of leadership can be as illuminating as a clear summer day or as dark as a cold winter night. Judge, W. (1999).The leader’s shadow: Exploring and developing executive character. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage“Shadow Work” requires leaders to explore their shadow side; why do you do the things you do? What drives your interactions with others? This is serious self-reflection work.
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