There is a second way in which shadow functions are important to identify when coaching someone like Joshua or Kristen. Leaders not only have shadows projected on them, they also project their own shadow onto other people. This is the bonding process I mentioned above and the fundamental collusion inherent in imposterships. The leader must herself reclaim her own projections and acknowledge the other side of her own psyche and the often unacknowledged and underappreciated other side of her strength as a leader. Leaders often look to other people to pick up the slack regarding their own supposed weaknesses. A visionary leader looks to a member of her administrative staff to be the “realist.” A “people-person” looks to a colleague to be the “numbers-person.” As Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1977) noted in her legendary Men and Women of the Corporation (and as we witnessed in the TV series Mad Men) male executives often looked to their secretaries during an earlier era to fill-in the social and interpersonal gaps in their own persona.
As organizational coaches, we can encourage and help our clients reclaim the dissociated parts of themselves. They may find it not only confusing and anxiety-provoking to acknowledge the disparate parts of their own psyche—but might also find it quite a challenge to reclaim responsibility (and authority) for functions that they have conveniently assigned to other people. It is hard to abandon imposterships. The coaching client need not take on full responsibility for all of the functions associated with their job, but they can at least acknowledge that they can do this work and can engage often under-utilized strengths to engage this work when needed.Download Article 1K Club