What Autumn Knows About Leadership Development

*Photo taken last week in Sacacomie, Canada on an Immersive experience with senior leaders working on their shadows.

For me there is a special magic in October.  I have felt this way since I was a child.  The crisp, cold air, the smell of chimney smoke and bonfires, the thrill of Halloween and most of all the leaves.  Autumn leaves are always a beautiful reminder of the fact that in order to grow we must let certain things fall away and become compost.  When we do, new things can grow.

In October, the nights also start to draw in. We embrace darkness with cosiness; candles, fires and blankets.  There’s that beautiful Danish word, ‘hygge’, designed especially for this pleasure.  So, the dark really is nothing to fear.

On the program I work on, I have the great privilege of helping leaders explore a little of their own darkness.  This is known as ‘shadow work’.  In Jungian psychology the shadow is the term used to identify the parts of the self which we are not conscious of.  Usually the parts of ourselves we dislike so much that we keep them hidden – even from ourselves.  And since it is believed that 95% of our thinking is subconscious, most of the time, the shadow is probably running the show.

The work comes in exploring these parts. I often tell the leaders I work with, that shadow work is like a messed-up treasure hunt. You follow one clue, after another to uncover your hidden thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

It sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? It can be, but the hardest part is getting started. Here’s a metaphor that I love.  Remember when you were a child and from the safety of your bed you saw the shadow of a monster lurking behind the door?  If you were to get up and turn on the light, you’d find the monster was just your bathrobe hanging on a hook, but to get to this point you have to get up, cross the cold, dark swamp of your bedroom floor and turn on the light.  Once the light is on, the monster suddenly transforms into the bathrobe and is no longer the one with the power.

Once you do this, you know what you are working with and you can decide what you want to let go of, to compost or maybe even to burn in the bonfire.  But you have to commit to the work, to the metaphorical crossing of the floor and turning on the light.

Are you ready to be inspired on your leadership journey by October? Are you ready to peer into the darkness? Are you ready to let behaviors that no longer serve you and your team fall away like autumn leaves?

Authored by Jennifer Tarjanyi, Altruistic Adventurer at GAIA Insights