“You’ve had a really bad attitude for the past few days and I don’t want to be around you any longer. You need to fix whatever is bothering you and quick!” The words came out quick, hot, and angry. After they said it, all I could do was stop.  I tried like hell to put on a brave exterior, but on the inside I was becoming emotional, I realized that I had failed.

I’m not going to say that the weeks leading up to the confrontation were all fine and dandy, because they weren’t. There were several things causing my bad attitude. Mostly there were projects that were reaching an end, a few that were in beginning stages, and one that was just plain troubling. That coupled with the fact that I had lost track of my shadow and the message it was sending all led to my colleague laying into me.

The “Shadow of the Leader” concept is one of my favorite aspects of the Senn Delaney leadership training. And while Senn Delaney doesn’t have a monopoly on this concept, when you think back, it is something that we’ve all been exposed to at an early age. As children, we copy our classmates in school.  As parents, we at times slip and say “Do as I say – Not as I do” to our kids.  As talent acquisition recruiter types, we listen to the other recruiters on the phones and watch how they work, how they close, all in an effort to emulate success. (Leadership 2005)

However, what happens when all goes south? What happens when you bring the home baggage to work, or the work baggage home?  It’s simple, you quite possibly screw up.

What I absolutely love about this concept is the fact that you can trace the behavior from the top down.  CEO’s, Presidents, VP’s, Directors, Managers, etc. etc, it will all roll downhill and have a major impact on the overall culture of the organization. Look at our not so recent past – the scandals with Enron, WorldComm, Madoff.  I’m generalizing here but the point is pretty clear, when your leader casts a dubious shadow, the staff notice and reacts accordingly.

So what does this have to do with recruiting? Well it’s pretty simple. I have a strong belief that candidates can hear a recruiter’s hubris over the phone. They can hear when you’re short with them, or when you don’t have time to take their calls. They can also see it in action. For example, sending detailed questionnaires to fill out instead of taking time on the phone.

This concept is something that I’ve become acutely aware of over the past few years.  It’s something that I try and work on and remind myself constantly to stop and think of my shadow. What is it saying about me when I’m dropping my daughter off at school, or before I walk into my office, or right before I go into a staff meeting.  I realize now that in order for me to be a better spouse, parent, and colleague in the office, I need to be aware of what shadow I’m casting.

Or to sum this all up in the immortal words of Ice Cube “Check yo self before you wreck yo self…cause shotgun bullets are bad for your health!”

Reference Source: Leadership, Senn Delaney. The Human Operating System. Long Beach:Leadership Press, 2005.

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