There is a striking difference between the shadow and the light of leadership. When leaders cast light, they mastered many ethical challenges of good leadership. But when they cast a shadow, they abuse power, mismanage information, fail to take accountability, mismanage resources, do not address concerns, do not respond to criticism, and cast aside concerns as objections. The difference between these two perceptions of leadership is the intent. When you cast a shadow, what you do is to hide what you do rather than correct what you do. Whereas, when you cast light on issues, you do what you can to correct what you did and warn others about the consequences of their actions. Ummm, sounds super confusing, isn’t it? Let’s simplify the question first.
Why do leaders, when facing internal and external adversity cast shadows?
They do it because they do not want to be held accountable. As a leader, your greatest power is the ability to inspire loyalty from your followers. But when your followers lack confidence in you, it will be difficult for you to motivate them to work. This is where the danger of leaders arises. This is where they try to hide things and seal damaged bridges rather than mending it. They do it to hide their flaws from their followers.
The danger of leadership is that it often involves abuse of power. The reason why leaders sometimes use shadow tactics to conceal their misdeeds is because they don’t want their subordinates to become aware of what they are doing. If your subordinates know that you are engaging in unethical behavior, but you claim that it is only accidental, they will have doubts. In this situation, it is not surprising that they would try to undermine you.
Leadership entails the ability to gain the respect of others. Respect means taking responsibility and following through with commitments. You may be able to earn the respect of others by exhibiting great leadership qualities such as integrity and sharing of power. However, these things cannot be done if you conceal or mismanage your powers. The only way to manage power is to use it ethically and responsibly. Some leaders think it’s the opposite and things turn damaging.
When you become the mask of deception, you also lose the ability to manage information that can damage your position. Why do leaders cast shadows instead of light? It is because they want their subordinates to blindly believe whatever you say, even if it is false. This is very tempting in a situation when people are already suspicious of you. By saying one thing, your followers will think that there is something else behind all these allegations. This is what politicians are doing since, since forever, maybe?
The last reason why most leaders abuse the power of the office is because they want to gain favor. This is the most common and the most dangerous reason why most leaders hide their flaws and cast shadows on some grey areas. Most leaders want to gain favor. They don’t want to be held accountable for their actions or the actions of their subordinates. However, if they are not held accountable, then there is no way that they can achieve the goals that they have set for themselves and their organizations. And ultimately, if they cannot achieve the goals that they have set, they will not be able to truly succeed in life and be an effective leader.