Academic Desk


Moving Out of Shadow

S hadow, as originally coined by early psychologist Carl Jung, is things about ourselves that we don’t know we don’t know. Shadow is somewhat comparable to our unconscious. It is parts of ourselves, both the golden parts and the not so pretty parts, that we hide, repress, deny, indulge, or justify. These are parts of us that we have no wish to be, or are unaware of being, or are unaware of the impact of, or don’t care about the negative impact of. We’re limited as leaders when we don’t know about our unintended impacts. When we don’t understand our roles in what is going right or wrong, we can’t help things go better, or more consciously and deliberately do what we are already doing to help things go well. Without a conscious relationship with our positive and negative impacts, we are going to be confused as leaders as to why things go well and why they don’t.That’s why it’s important for leaders to have elevated shadow literacy. Here is a very simple everyday example. A leader sent out an email about a specific project to what he thought was the project team. But the name of one of the team members was attached to another team’s email notification list.The leader didn’t check the email addresses before sending them out. So this notification about a particular project went to a bunch of people who were not involved in that project. We make these human errors. No harm, no shame, no fault, no blame. The shadow came in when he didn’t follow that up with an email to the people he had notified who weren’t part of that team, after it was pointed out what he had inadvertently

the unintended impact of not doing these repairs, and he had accumulated increasing resentment toward the leader until he reached his breaking point. It was like the Popeye cartoons, just before Popeye reaches for his spinach because he can’t stand any more.This particular fellow reached the Popeye point, and he attacked the leader from shadow because he was withholding unfinished business toward the leader. Elevated shadow literacy requires much more than those acquainted with shadow often realize. Specifically relevant dimensions for leaders include power shadow, where leaders have a shadow relationship with the power that their leadership role has. They are either in power tyranny, or they are in denial about the power that they have or their role has. They aren’t in the right relationship with the power inherent in the leadership role. Another aspect of shadow is authority shadow, common in leaders with unresolved authority issues. They either have an adolescent rebellion against authority, or they are drunk on being the authority. They are egotists, narcissists, or they are power-phobic, even though they are in an authority role, running away from recognizing the authority that their role has. Another aspect of shadow is archetypal shadow. There are basically five core varieties of power that are captured by archetypes. Archetypes are prototypes of key aspects of what it is to be human in a loving place in the world. Leaders who don’t express the lover archetype in their leadership are perceived to be intimidating, and they don’t know it continued page 40

done. He should have written an oops email: I am sorry to have bothered you. I made a mistake. It was the wrong email address for one of the team members, and you got notified inadvertently about something that isn’t relevant to you. Because he didn’t send out that repair message, he received an angry email about carelessness and wasting time from someone who shouldn’t have been notified.That anger was needless anger. If the oops follow-up had occurred, there would have been no resentment, anger, or frustration on the part of the people who were unintentionally notified.That is the symptom. The shadow piece in this particular leader has to do with a dynamic that is often called special boy. The special boy shadow is where if I make a mistake, or if I have an unintended negative impact, I am special and I don’t need to do any repair. You should give me a pass and not worry about it. If you get upset because I haven’t done a repair, that is your problem. That is all impact shadow. I am in denial about the unintended negative impacts of an unintended behavior of mine, or an unintended role that I’ve played in a complication that has occurred. That is an everyday example of shadow. But the person who sent the angry email was doing shadow withhold, meaning that he had seen this pattern before in this particular leader. He had never told that leader about

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