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Humanising The Shadow-Man

Have you ever worked in a huge corporate setting? Somewhere where you wouldn’t be able to point your boss out of a prison lineup? Who knows what your CEO looks like nowadays anyway? Most people don’t know the true face of their boss, in the retail sector an employee will know their supervisors, managers, area managers and maybe even district managers but, would they know the face of their CEO? Absolutely not. This is part of the joys of a small business, in a team of just a few people, there is a greater rapport between employees and a semblance of a blurred line of leadership, a lack of rank pulling due to being in such a small team that likeability weighs just as much as being decisive.

But, just because the CEO is a Shadow-Man, doesn’t mean you have to be. If you have any power within your organisation, a team leader, a supervisor, a member of the management team etc. you never know what impression you are giving off. It is not uncommon for employees, particularly the new, young and impressionable to be wary of the wrath of the bossman. Nobody wants to be faced by an angry superior, especially without a sense of rapport between the two of you being solidified.

So, what do you do?

In his TED Talk: How to start changing an unhealthy work environment, Glenn D Rolfsen acknowledged that workplace bullying can occur between colleagues in the form of what he calls “backbiting”. He explained that the idea of making comments in this way is done to elevate an individual’s personal pride, by diminishing the reputation and standing of others. With this in mind, it can be suggested that if someone with power were to do this, it would certainly reflect poorly upon them. You don’t want to work for a bully.

Simon Sinek suggests that the best way to be a leader in the current climate is to “be the leader you wish you had”, because you want to have a sense of rapport with your team. You want a mutual sense of trust to be felt through your organisation. It’s all well and good to ask for trust, but, before you find your feet in an organisation, it is like a flightless bird trusting gravity to pass them by. Futile. Instead, you must lay the foundations you wish you could have seen in previous workplaces.

Lastly, in her interview with Forbes, Anna Sandberg acknowledged her own methods of leadership, particularly when de-escalating conflict within a team can be done in many ways, however, the tactic she tends to use is simple: “whenever [her team] have a very difficult disagreement, [she] would say, “Well, let's have coffee!” So [they would] have coffee – lot’s of it!”. By removing yourself from the tense boardroom scenario you can relax the situation. De-escalate through motion, through abandoning the place which could feel like it is suffocating the irritated colleagues, and taking everyone somewhere where there can be comfort, ease, relaxation. Take a step back, have a drink. Breathe. And, try again. Try and have the discussion in a different space, with a different frame of mind. This is a very strong and tactical decision, acting as the leader but doing so in a way where there is a clear sense of familiarity and trust within the team, frustration, after all, stems from employees feeling passionate about a subject.

You want to lead with empathy; make yourself appear human, own up to your mistakes and be kind to others. Rapport is not instantaneous, its give and take.

In a survey of eight young people earlier this year, six of them acknowledged a want to feel accommodated for in the workplace. Now, this does not necessarily need to be a large expression and declaration of support, it could be as simple as making sure their desk is close to the elevator, and or the bathroom, it could be making sure there are railings on the wall for people who work with you that have issues with mobility. It could be offering your minutes in a variety of font sizes and background colours during staff meetings for those with poor eyesight, dyslexia or chronic migraines to avoid strain or excess stress. But, it could also be as simple as accepting that things happen. Your colleagues are just as human as you are, and by putting yourself above them as a leader, you are in the position to be idealised. In order to avoid being a Shadow-Man, you simply need to make a conscious effort to be transparent, simple declarations of fatigue, of feeling unwell, of having a bad day, it helps your workers feel similar to you, establishes mutual empathy. It makes your team work cohesively.

Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (, is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.

The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address:

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