Casting a Better Shadow. Reflections on Leadership and Navigating Back on Track

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Over the past few months, we have been swamped; during these times, it’s hard to self-reflect after a tough week that ended positively. I made time to reflect, reevaluate the plan, and move forward.

As a leader, it’s essential to remember that you cast a shadow. This shadow isn’t a tangible, physical one but a reflection of your actions, attitudes, and values. Just as a physical shadow is shaped by the light and its object, the shadow you cast as a leader is moulded by your actions and their effects on the team around you.

When you’re doing well, your shadow is a positive influence that motivates and inspires. But there are times when you may feel that your leadership shadow isn’t quite what it should be. Perhaps you’ve been under pressure, maybe you’ve made some mistakes, or perhaps you’re simply feeling burnt out. During these times, your shadow may seem to loom more darkly than you’d like. However, don’t despair. Every leader goes through such periods. The key is recognising the issue and taking steps to regain your footing.

Reflecting on the Shadows

The first step in getting back on track is self-reflection. It’s essential to understand the type of shadow you’re currently casting. Are your actions encouraging, fostering growth and togetherness, or are they creating a climate of fear or resentment? Your shadow directly impacts team morale, productivity, satisfaction, and often the outcomes you seek, so it’s crucial to be honest with yourself.

Consider gathering feedback from your team and peers. They can provide insights that you might have missed. Be open to this feedback; it’s a tool for growth, not a personal attack.

Mapping the Course Back

Once you understand the type of shadow you’re casting, it’s time to map your course back. This process may be challenging but also an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Revisit your values: What do you stand for? What kind of leader do you want to be? These are questions you must answer. Your core values should guide your decisions and actions.

Set achievable goals: Instead of trying to change everything at once, focus on one or two key areas where you can make a difference. This will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and make tracking your progress easier.

Seek out a mentor or coach: This can be a more experienced leader within your organisation, a professional coach, or a trusted individual outside your professional sphere. They can provide guidance, encouragement, and a different perspective.

Practice emotional intelligence: Leaders must navigate their emotions and those of their team members. Understanding and managing your emotional responses can help you cast a more positive shadow. 

Creating a New Shadow

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Abraham Lincoln

As you shift your behaviours and attitudes, you’ll cast a new shadow that aligns with your values and the kind of leader you aspire to be. It will realign with you. It requires time, patience, and persistence.

Every leader faces moments of doubt, confusion, or even failure. What separates great leaders from the rest is the ability to acknowledge these moments, learn from them, and navigate back to the right path. In doing so, they cast a more positive shadow and demonstrate to their team that growth comes from adversity.

Remember, the shadow you cast as a leader is not just about you but also the team. When you work to improve, you’re bettering yourself and creating a better environment for those around you. So when you find yourself casting a shadow you’re not proud of, as I did this week, see it as an opportunity. It’s your chance to reflect, learn, and grow into the leader you can be.

Every day is a new opportunity to cast a better shadow. The steps you take towards self-improvement today will echo the positive impacts you make tomorrow. So take a deep breath, square your shoulders, and start the journey back on track – for yourself and your team.