Good leadership cascades out and impacts the team long after a leader leaves the room. Like a shadow, it follows a person and can be even larger than the person themselves. As you can imagine that shadow can have both a positive impact and a negative one. 

During the pandemic, the CEO of REI,  Eric Artz, announced that he was suspending his pay and refusing any additional incentives as stores closed across the nation. The board also took pay cuts as well. Those funds were diverted to help keep paychecks going for people in the field during uncertain times. 

Absenteeism (Show 173) Micromanaging (Show 314) or leading like a seagull (Show 260) can all lead to a negative shadow that demotivates others, fosters a culture that is counter to what is productive, and does additional damage long after you are gone. 

What kind of shadow are you casting? Today we’ll look at four areas to reflect on as you think about what type of shadow you cast on your work and on others. 

What am I saying?


Your people more than likely want to do right by you and your organization. As a result, they are highly influenced by what you say and communicate to them.  For example, if you say things like “I know the policy says this, but we actually do this” or “I know what my leader said, but this is what we are going to do,” the shadow you are casting is telling your people not to trust or take policies too seriously and not to trust what other leaders are saying. 

How are you communicating priorities? Are they one-off conversations or are they ingrained in the regular expectations? An easy example here is diversity. Is there a discussion once or twice a year or is it a part of the regular conversation?

Self-reflection tips for your communication

  • Does my communication align with the larger direction and vision?
  • Is my communication inclusive of others?
  • Is my humor appropriate?
  • Does my communication instill trust and confidence?
  • Is my communication clear?

How do I act?


Actions truly do speak louder than words. A popular saying goes, “People won’t remember what you say, but how you made them feel.” Yes, your actions are the ones that people tend to remember the most, but inactions can communicate just as loudly. 

Self-reflection tips for your actions

Fulfill your commitments and show that you care for the team’s well-being in order to help strengthen and lengthen your leadership shadow. 

What do I prioritize?


This is a category that is highly emulated by those that you lead and includes both business goals and well-being efforts. When I worked in a senior-level operations role, I discovered that no one could recite our Values or knew the mission statement. How could we ground our work if there was no foundation? I made it a priority and had everyone recite them together during the daily team huddles. In a few short months, hundreds of people across a large geographical area were doing the same thing. Having that foundation, made other conversations around accountability, expectations, and care easier because they aligned with the Values that everyone knew. 

What you prioritize, will be the same things that your team will prioritize as well. Much in the same way as your actions, your team will not likely highly prioritize things that you don’t yourself. 

Self-reflection tips for prioritization

  • How supportive are you in prioritizing other’s well-being?
  • Do your priorities align with the larger business goals?
  • Are you making the priorities a part of your everyday conversations?
  • What items or topics do you engage directly with your team about?

What am I measuring?


Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, Chief of the U.S. Army said, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. I knew I had to be clear and direct about what was unacceptable behavior in the Army and that there would be tough consequences for anyone found to be in breach”.  If you as a leader don’t embrace accountability, then your words can mean next to nothing to your team. Accountability is the culmination of your words, actions, and priorities and determines how strong your shadow is. 

Self-reflection tips for accountability

Your Leadership Legacy is what you leave for generations to come. Your leadership shadow can be a huge influence today. Focus on these four areas and watch your influence grow beyond your expectations. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH