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 both conscious beliefs and hidden beliefs he calls shadow beliefs. He defines a shadow belief as a belief we hold deep inside, outside of our conscious awareness. Those beliefs profoundly affect us and our leadership. He provides keen 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 a 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.” In the past that belief often stifled my joy and peace and hindered my leadership.
Cashman says that we must bring those shadow beliefs into the light for us to lead at our best. He suggests seven clues that can bring these shadow beliefs to light.
- If other people often give us feedback inconsistent with how we see ourselves, a shadow belief is present.
- When we feel stuck or blocked and at a loss about what to do next, a shadow belief is holding us back.
- If strengths become counterproductive a shadow belief may be behind it.
- When are are not open to new information, new learning, or other people’s views, a shadow belief is limiting us.
- If we react to circumstances with emotional responses disproportionate to the situation, it may point to a shadow belief.
- When we find ourselves forcefully reacting to the limitations of others in a critical, judgemental way, we are often projecting our shadow belief upon others.
- If we often experience pain, trauma, or discomfort in our body, a shadow belief may be trying to rise to the surface.
As I’ve faced my shadow beliefs, I’ve experienced greater peace in my life and become a more productive leader.
How about you? What shadow beliefs might be dogging your leadership?