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Part of the "Living Organisation" s
We all have a shadow side!
Since working with leaders during the stressful period over the last 18
months, I’ve become interested in research that suggests your key strengths
as a leader may well have a mirror image that produce major flaws in your
style of leadership.
Research by Hogan and others (2007) seeks to uncover leaders’ dark sides by
analysing what derails them under pressure. The research, conducted
amongst 11,000 leaders in the UK, identified 11 “derailers” - strengths which
turned into flaws under pressure.
In reality, each of these derailers is actually a potential leadership strength.
The derailment occurs when the strength is overused. This is likely to happen
when the leader’s confidence is too high, when they are inexperienced, or
when they are under extreme pressure.
Strengths or De-railers?
Dr Norman Chorn | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.normanchorn.com | www.centstrat.com
Examine the Dark Side of
Your strengths may
well become the
things that de-rail
you. Watch for your
It is interesting to note that these strengths exist within many leaders as
complete dimensions i.e. they possess the ability to display both the strength
and the shadow side. We learn to manage the shadow side as we gain
experience and stay grounded. Quite literally, we become skilled at mastering
and controlling some of our less effective (and less attractive) impulses.
From Strengths --> Potential Derailers
1. Enthusiastic --> Volatile. Inconsistent behaviour - from enthusiastic
2. Shrewd --> Mistrustful. Others think you are prone to retaliate
when you feel you have been wronged.
3. Careful --> Cautious. Overly cautious, rule-bound, and unwilling to
4. Charming --> Manipulative. Hard to advise, or might not evaluate
the consequences of your decision.
5. Vivacious --> Dramatic. Over committed, impulsive and unwilling to
listen - especially to negative feedback.
6. Imaginative --> Eccentric. Although creative, there is a tendency to
be impulsive and eccentric.
7. Independent --> Detached. Self-sufficient, indifferent to feedback.
May appear uninterested in other’s problems.
8. Focused --> Passive Aggressive. Inflexible, stubborn. May appear
reluctant to be part of a team.
9. Confident --> Arrogant. Strong sense of entitlement. Opinionated,
self-absorbed, unwilling to learn from mistakes.
10. Diligent --> Perfectionist. Organised, but your determination to do
well every time makes you stubborn.
11. Dutiful --> Dependent. Careful to please your superiors, yet you find
it difficult to make decisions on your own.
So, how can we manage some of the shadow side characteristics of our
leadership? Here are some guidelines:
■ Maintain an awareness of your personal strengths and potential shadow
■ Remain humble and grounded about your strengths
■ Be careful of rapidly promoting individuals and simply assuming they
will go from strength to strength. They are likely to take this as a cue
that their strengths are valuable, and that they should use them more
forcefully. And this increases the potential of a derailment!
Dr Norman Chorn
Norman conducts workshops in
strategy and organisation design.
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