Communication Growth Leadership Reflection Self awareness

Jump over your shadow

Sometimes you need to let go of that perfect reflection, and jump over your shadow, to move forward.

How often do you jump over your shadow to get what you want done?

How often do you have to compromise some of your values, principles, or beliefs to make progress on your ambitions? 

Your shadow reveals who you really are. Your shadow is the perfect reflection.

And sometimes, you need to let go of that perfect reflection to move forward.

My home country, the Netherlands, held parliamentary elections recently.

The results were a disaster, from my point of view.

The far-right party won. The party that wants to put a hold on migration. The party that wants to halt all climate change efforts. The party that wants a Nexit. That’s the Dutch version of Brexit. 

The guy leading the party even has the same hairdo as Donald Trump.

That guy has changed his tone of voice over the last couple of months to become more attractive to milder voters.

People who are fed up with current politics and political figures looking for an alternative but not really in favor of the above-mentioned political agendas.

People who voted in provincial elections a few months ago for the farmer’s party. 

People who didn’t read political programs were lured with oneliners and algorithms.

People who didn’t believe the guy could win until he did. And scared the living daylights out of most people with common sense.

That guy now has to try to design a coalition government in the Netherlands.

Suddenly, the most quoted oneliner is that “politicians need to step over their shadow” to research whether a coalition government is possible with this guy.

A guy who thinks the Dutch economy would survive if the Netherlands were out of the EU, with 80% of all imports through the Dutch harbors going straight to Germany.

A guy who ignores global warming like Donald Trump.

A guy who went on TV several times to state that all Islamic people needed to leave the country. Hesitantly acknowledging that those with a Dutch passport could stay.

That all seems forgotten by the voters who didn’t vote for him but still marked his name on the ballot.

Because the incumbent politicians did a lousy job making their case to dissatisfied people.

These voters jumped over their own shadows to put democracy in danger. We recently saw similar far-right results in Hungary and Poland.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending the current political culture or behavior of politicians. 

Most (or perhaps all) politicians worry more about themselves and their careers than what’s happening inside the country.

They listen more to themselves and their advisors than what people say. And yes, it is hard to have a solid government when you have 26 (twenty-six!) political parties you can vote for.

In such a climate, oneliner politicians can win. Politicians like Donald Trump. Because people’s attention span has decreased below that of a goldfish’s, getting attention takes a lot of work.

It’s hard to win people over when you have less than 13 seconds to convince somebody.

You may have to jump over your shadow to influence with a simple message and a solid program people trust. A program that’s not a threat to democracy.

I don’t have a magic bullet here. I don’t have a clear solution. And I understand that what I’m advocating for here is a challenge. I also understand that compromises are sometimes necessary in democracies.

But I do know that we can’t support a racist with a milder tone and let him govern a country just because the current politicians haven’t found the right answers yet.

Being a politician has a lot in common with being a leader. You need people to buy into your message. That means you need to look in the mirror, leave your ego at home, and jump over your shadow.

In this case, to save democracy. In your case to grow your team, your business, and yourself.

Your turn: How tall is your shadow?


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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