Does the word “shadow” stir positive or negative thoughts when you hear it? It’s an interesting concept. Shadow of suspicion immediately has a negative connotation, but walking in the shadow of greatness has a positive tone. Either way, as a leader, your style casts a shadow over the people you are responsible for.
In our Essential Skills of Communicating workshop, there is an exercise that includes a list of communication behaviors. with a continuum between a negative behavior and a positive behavior. In the class, we ask people to think about a past manager or supervisor and place that individual on each of those continuum lines. At the conclusion of the exercise, we ask if the group knows why we asked them to think about a past manager. Without fail, someone will say that it’s because we all end up carrying some if not all of those behaviors with us into our own management roles.
It’s true. Just as you are a reflection to some degree of every boss you’ve ever had. You too will cast a shadow that will influence how your direct reports will act when they are charged with the responsibility of leading their own team. Just like real shadows, the brighter the light is shining on you, the longer your shadow is and the more people it will envelope.
When you start to think about it in this way, it is easy to see that every single thing you do as a manager will leave an imprint on the people who report to you. From your work ethic, which is about who you are as a person, to the way you deliver feedback, which is a learned skill.
Take a minute today and make a list of the three behaviors you hope your people will carry with them when they are managers themselves. Also write down the one behavior you wouldn’t be super proud of if you saw it reflected in a future manager. Ask yourself what you can do to change that behavior and start to make a plan.
Like all shadows, your leadership shadow is there regardless of what you are doing. You might as well make sure it’s providing people with the right type of shade.