Check out the camel illusion in this image, one of National Geographic’s 50 Greatest Photographs.
If you’re wondering “Where’s the illusion?” take a closer look.
What looks like a train of camels traveling across the desert is actually their shadows.
The actual camels are the tiny tan smudges below.
As a founder, you cast a disproportionately large shadow in the same way.
The impact of everything you say and do is magnified by 10X.
That’s because as the leader — someone in a position of authority — you have higher status.
Doesn’t matter how nice and caring you are: People are wired to see someone with higher standing in the group as a potential threat.
So your team is constantly watching you, analyzing every word and reaction.
One founder recalls: “Someone on the executive team told me that a member of his team was worried because I frowned when he asked a question about how sales were going.
Another said: “I just made an offhand comment to my COO about someone on the team and a week later, he said ‘I thought about what you said, I’m worried too. What should we do? Maybe they’re not the right person for the job.’”
It’s frustrating when you just want to say what you think without it getting blown out of proportion.
You feel stifled and isolated, like you can’t just be yourself.
What you need to do instead is create your shadow with intention.
When you focus on being intentional, you create boundaries for yourself in each interaction. You know what’s relevant to say, and to whom. So your team shifts out of self-protection. You’re the trusted leader who makes everyone feel safe, heard and appreciated.
Best of all, you can be your authentic self.
When you’re your authentic self, good things happen. You…
- minimize politics and jockeying for favor
- elicit better information
- and best of all…
You have a clearer perspective of what’s going on in your company. So that each interaction is an opportunity to reinforce the caring culture you want to create.
When you’re the trusted leader, your teams take extreme ownership. They spend less mental energy on worrying and more on actually thinking about work.
And the shadow you cast transforms into a light showing the way.
p.s. There’s a small group of high-growth founders who are able to be their authentic selves and get what they want. That’s what I teach in my Evolving Faster program. If you want to know when the doors open in early 2023, join the wait list here.