Shadow Beliefs in a Leader: Clues to Yours

Kevin Cashman wrote an outstanding book on leadership called Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life. In his book he writes about conscious beliefs and shadow beliefs. He defines a shadow belief as a belief we hold deep inside, outside of our conscious awareness. He provides insight about how to discover those beliefs.

He contends that these beliefs often hinder leaders from being their best. For example, one shadow belief might be that subtle voice inside that constantly says, “You must perform better than everybody else for people to like you.” For me, one shadow belief I discovered was this: “Everybody around me needs to be happy for me to be happy. Therefore, I must try to make everybody happy.” Years ago that belief stifled my joy and peace as I tried to lead our church.

Cashman says, however, that we must bring those shadow beliefs into the light so that we can become our best as leaders. He gives seven clues that can bring these shadow beliefs to light.

  1. If other people often give us feedback inconsistent with how we see ourselves, a shadow is present.
  2. When we feel stuck or blocked with a real loss as to what to do next, a shadow is holding us back.
  3. As strengths become counterproductive, some hidden dynamics need to surface.
  4. When are are not open to new information, new learning, or other people’s views, a shadow is limiting us.
  5. If we react to circumstances with emotional responses disproportionate to the situation, we are right over the target of a shadow belief.
  6. When we find ourselves forcefully reacting to the limitations of others in a critical, judgmental way, we are often projecting our shadow onto others.
  7. If we often experience pain, trauma, or discomfort in our body, a shadow belief may be attempting to rise to the surface to seek reconciliation.

As I’ve faced my shadow beliefs, I’ve experienced greater peace in my life and become a more productive leader.

How about you? Are any shadow beliefs dogging your leadership?

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