Why leaders need to work with their shadows

Jungian theories of the personality and its shadow shed light on leaders' misbehaviour - which can lead organisations or entire countries astray

Tesla CEO Elon Musk ran afoul of the US authorities for a tweet about taking his listed company private. Letting shadows take charge may lead to irrational behaviours that need serious transformation, the writer says. Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn
Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn is awaiting trial over alleged tax fraud. Corporate leaders are prone to ignoring their personal shadows in the workplace, says the writer, a coach to CEOs.PHOTO: REUTERS
Tesla CEO Elon Musk ran afoul of the US authorities for a tweet about taking his listed company private. Letting shadows take charge may lead to irrational behaviours that need serious transformation, the writer says. Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn
Tesla CEO Elon Musk ran afoul of the US authorities for a tweet about taking his listed company private. Letting shadows take charge may lead to irrational behaviours that need serious transformation, the writer says. PHOTO: REUTERS

Well before noted psychologist Carl Jung developed the concept of the personal shadow, author Robert Louis Stevenson had captured the imagination of millions - and continues to do so - with the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

All of us, and leaders in particular, are prone to what Jung referred to: "That which we do not bring to our consciousness appears in our lives as fate."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 31, 2019, with the headline 'Why leaders need to work with their shadows'. Subscribe