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Leadership Shadow

In last week’s blog we looked at the importance of self-awareness in leadership and shared steps that can be taken to develop and increase your own self-awareness. 

As leaders, when assessing your potential to motivate or even inspire the people who work with you or for you, it is vital to understand the impact you have on them. 

Over the time you work with people, they will progressively glean a general perception of you from what you do both consciously and unconsciously.  

These perceptions make up what is termed your 'shadow of influence' and this dictates the effectiveness of your motivational capabilities.  

We all have such a shadow, yet few of us actually understand what it looks like, what is positive about it and what is likely to deter people from following your lead. 

We discuss this at great length on our LEAD™ program for good reasons. Your job in leading the organisation will be at least 50% about your ability to motivate those around you to strive towards excellence with technical proficiency taking a poor second place. We understand from world-leading researchers, such as Edgar Schein, that culture is driven by the perceptions of conscious and unconscious behaviours of key organisational influencers. And we can see that this unseen “shadow of influence” will dictate your effectiveness in both motivation and cultural improvement. 


Infographic with info from Gallup

It makes sense therefore to start by finding out what this shadow of influence looks like. By getting honest feedback from others, we can build our self-belief by gaining a clearer idea of what we are doing well as well as identifying opportunities for learning and improvement. In his book, Growing your Own Heroes, John Oliver OBE, who has spoken on many of our LEAD™ programs, recommends asking direct reports to complete a simple ‘leadership style’ questionnaire as a way to start the process of understanding. If that doesn’t appeal, then trying to subjectively gauge what people think of you or talking to people can help to build a somewhat clearer picture (but be mindful of an understandable reluctance from individuals to honestly tell the ‘boss’ what they think of them). 

Chris Creed, CEO of Creed Foodservice, main picture, was part of our very first LEAD™ cohort in 2012 and a key takeaway from the program for him was gaining a better understanding of his own ‘leadership shadow’ and the impact that he had in the business, as he explains. 

“I was reading an article about teams and leadership, and there was something that really rang a bell with me. It said that when we tell people to do their job, we get workers. When we trust people to do their job, we get leaders. 

“LEAD™ was life changing for me. Our business wouldn’t be anything like it is now without it. 

“I’m very aware of the leadership shadow I cast and how that affects those around me. 

“I’m more reflective. I think about why something happened. In the past I’d have been much more reactive. One day I discovered that some fresh food had to be thrown away because processes hadn’t been followed, which I was annoyed and frustrated about.  

“But then I thought, why didn’t it happen? What else was going on in that situation, were we supporting them to be able to do the right thing, to do their job well? 

“Gut instinct is useful as long as you give yourself time to think for a moment. 

“I’m more open to seeing other perspectives now. We have to see criticism as an opportunity to improve, but that means not being defensive. I have to show my vulnerability too. I tell people they can challenge me. They need to know that it’s safe to talk about the things that don’t go to plan, or that they find difficult. 

“If people really want to be more successful and be open to different ways of doing things, then LEAD™ is a great way of doing that. If it was mandatory in business, what a great country we’d have.” 

If you'd like to read more about the leadership and cultures changes made in Creed Foodservice, you can click below to read our case study on them.


3D book cover for the QuoLux™ Creed Foodservice case study eBook


If you would like to learn more about programs for senior leaders (LEAD™) or current or aspiring managers (LEADlight), please click on their links. You can also book a call with one of the QuoLux™ team to talk through how we may be able to help you - just send us a message here.



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