Leadership is all about empowering your direct reports. One way to understand your impact is through the concept of your shadow.
Last week I had the honour of leading a group of CFOs through a discussion around leadership and Vivian Quinn, CFO Australian Hearing who is a member of my consortium raised a question that really moved me and one week on I am still thinking about it.
Good resonant leadership is where the shadow you create makes people feel calm and strong.
It’s the sort of question that makes you consistently reflect on your behaviour as a leader. This question leaves no room for blame or victim mentality. It’s only a question that can be asked by those willing to endure the truth of their own reflection: What shadow are you casting on your people?
Building a team of followers
Parents know this question intimately. After a horrible day, coming home to your family is meant to be a positive, but all of a sudden your kids become crazy. Just the other day, my 2-year old had a tantrum and I asked myself, what is the shadow I am casting on her right now that could have triggered this?
I was unaware of her as I was caught up with household chores, such as cooking. My lack of presence and my attempts to appease her really cast a shadow that ended in the 2-year old’s outbursts.
So how does this play out at work? Leaders and managers are up on centre stage, the audience is watching their every move and thus need to be mindful of the shadow they cast and how it impacts others. If the shadow empowers and elevates employees, they will want to stand with you, follow you and be your “mini me” or (unofficial) 2IC.
This is called resonant leadership, where the shadow you create makes people feel calm and strong.
What kind of shadow do you cast?
Resonant leadership in the financial sphere
Ask yourself the question right now: What is my shadow today? What impact is this having? The answers to these questions can either give you the information needed to change something in your mindset or it will reinforce the fact you’re doing the right things.
The reality is we can always generate a light shadow to minimise the days and moments when the shadow is dark.
One of my other CFOs said that when she is in a dark place, she works from home so that her shadow doesn’t affect her peers or direct reports. With over 50 people in her team, she is aware of the problems tribal leadership can present; it’s so easy to kill the vibe when you are having a bad day. The aim thus is to ensure you don’t cast your dark shadow onto others when it manifests.
Being in recruitment, I hear a lot of stories about bad leadership and how some managers cast negative shadows over their people, which affects their wellbeing, productivity and even quality. Stress and a sense of detachment at work translates into poor work performance as well as unhappiness at home. And before long dark shadows turn into employee resignations.
If you are reading this today, I hope you can take something out of it that will assist you so the people you meet today can also feel hopeful of their future. Your shadow, whether dark or light, is yours and you’re fully responsible to manage it. It is obedient and will reflect exactly what you tell it. Reflect kindness, calmness and love and see what happens.
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