The Leadership Shadow – part two


E. de Haan & A. Copeland
The Training Journal, 2015

Concluding their look at the darker side of leadership, Erik de Haan and Andy Copeland reveal how your strongest gift can become your greatest weakness,


Any act of leadership opens up a rift, between the ‘leader’ and the ‘team’, between the ‘meaning-maker’ and the recipients of meaning or, if you wish, the ‘ruler’ and the ‘common people’. This rift is the essence of what we call the leadership shadow: leadership by nature creates a split between a gesture and a response, or between guidance and the ability to follow through. One can study the internal manifestation of this rift as well, as a contrast between one’s sunny, active, constructive or aggressive side that has the ambition to contribute, create and demonstrate something; and one’s doubting, pessimistic, needy, vulnerable, cautious and concerned side, which craves for connection with oneself and others.

Generally it is very tempting to identify with your more ‘sunny’ side, the ‘leadership’ side of our interventions, certainly in public. In most cases there is a tendency to ignore the shadow side of leadership from as early and for as long as possible. However, the moment you do need to learn or change something is the moment you need to revert to your discarded shadow. Either by stepping aside, choosing ‘followership’ and allowing somebody who knows better to show the way, or by using some of those underdeveloped talents that you have yourself ignored for some time. At that point there is a conflict, between your pride and your passion, between your best intentions and your innermost shame, and between your ‘up’ and your ‘down’. The side of us that is ‘up’ wants to stay up, win more leadership presence and influence, whilst the side that is ‘down’ is by now used to not getting much of a listening to.

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The leadership shadow 2