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How authentic is your leadership shadow?

How Authentic is Your Leadership Shadow?

Are you a leader in your firm?

Even if you’re not a managing partner, or partner at all, chances are you are a leader to some of the people in your firm.  Unless you are a brand new joiner, it’s likely that you manage a team, manage a direct report or at times offer assistance and guidance to someone with less experience. 

As such, you have an influence on others.  You’ll want this influence to be genuine, authentic and positive.  People know you through observing and experiencing your consistent behaviours.  They notice:

  • What you Say

What you repeat, what you emphasise, how issues are framed, what context is set

  • How you Act

How you behave, how you listen to others (or not), the relationships you build

  • What you Prioritise

What your routines are, who you spend time with, the meetings you attend

  • What you Measure

What and who you reward, who you recognise, who you hold accountable

These combine to form what might be referred to as ‘Your Leadership Shadow’.  If the four leadership behaviours above are consistent and congruent, then your leadership shadow will be very powerful.  You’ll be leading by example.

It’s a way of inspiring others to follow you rather than issuing instructions for them to follow.  It also requires much less energy and effort as you’ll be being authentic, being true to yourself and working to your strengths.  This is crucial to your ability to sustain yourself over time.

Some simple questions can help you test out whether you have an authentic Leadership Shadow.

For example:

  • Where do you spend time? What falls off your calendar, what doesn’t get done when there aren’t enough hours in the day?
  • What questions do you regularly ask? What questions never get asked?
  • What gets followed up? What gets forgotten?
  • What is important enough to call a meeting about? What never makes the agenda?
  • What meeting actions are followed up on? What actions just stay on the to do list?

Review the answers and check that the areas you do spend time on are the areas you really want to focus on.  Is your leadership shadow truly congruent?

For example, your firm puts a priority on development and learning and learning for all staff.

A congruent leadership shadow would be where:

I want people to think for themselves (what I say)


I don’t ask people for their thoughts, instead I tell them exactly how to do a task (how I act)

An incongruent leadership shadow would be where:

I duck out of attending training courses at the last minute (what I prioritise)


In setting targets I focus only on KPI’s such as recovery rates and utilization rather than qualitative developmental goals (what I measure)

What leadership shadow do you cast? 

Is it the one you want, or do you need to make a change? 

Nicky Clough, December 2023

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