Welcome to the CREST Leadership mini-series, Shadows and Light in Leadership. 

By Dr. Dan Reinhardt

I remember when I first read the quote from Parker Palmer:

“A leader is someone with the power to project either shadow or light on some part of the world and on to the lives of the people who dwell there.”  Let Your Life Speak

How true that is! You can probably think of leaders who create an environment of courage, confidence and laughter; and others who project fear, uncertainty or high control. Maybe you can think of a boss to whom you wanted to bring your best, or an environment you could hardly wait to escape at the end of the day.

A penetrating question for leaders: “What kind of atmosphere are you creating?”

Well friends, I want to be a leader that projects light, and I think you do too.

So what do we do to be leaders with light?

  1. First of all, recognize we are all a mix of some shadow and some light.  We need to become aware of our inner issues. If we don’t do this inner work we will live in a delusion and tell ourselves that all our efforts are well intended, that our power is always benign, and that the problem is not us but it’s those people.
  2. One of the shadows we must deal with is insecurity. When leaders are insecure they create settings that deprive other people of their true identities. And it happens in spite of our best efforts to hide it. We compensate for our insecurities by being extroverted, demanding, domineering, or overly friendly. The cover doesn’t work, our insecurities leak through and people sense this. Insecurity creates followers who hold back on their true selves, and in that sense their identities are shadowed and diminished. Let’s be aware that our insecurities cast shadows, and we had better do something about it. But core insecurity is next to impossible to change on our own. So, …
  3. If we’re going to turn up the light it will be because we turn to Christ and find a freedom that comes from being forgiven and renewed by the Holy Spirit. Good leadership is not just mastering technical skills, rather it’s the influence coming out of a person humble enough to acknowledge this mix of shadow and light.

A leader who brings light is one who is finding healing through Christ.  There is a deep re-orientation of perspective and experience that comes with having our identity healed. Finding security in our heavenly Father’s love means we no longer have to prove ourselves or perform to make ourselves worthy because we are accepted and loved. With that acceptance we can relax — and people around us can also relax.

And with that, our light is shining brighter!

Now I admit these are weighty issues, requiring a lot more attention and depth than what a short blog can offer. Things like:

  • It’s a lot easier to see the shadows in others than in ourselves.
  • Self-righteousness feels so powerful: blame, criticism, judgment, self-pity… Self-righteousness can be a trap for the religious.

Stay tuned … we may come to this again later. But for now, the beginning is awareness these identity issues really color our leadership is at least the beginning point.

Stay tuned … next time I’ll talk about how light or shadow affects our whole outlook on life.

Scroll down and leave your thoughts. How can we develop a secure identity in Christ? This is no simple matter. Please add your thoughts and experiences so we can learn about this together!

  • What do you struggle with? Or what have you conquered?
  • And how did that come about?