17 January 2023 | 3 min read


Have you ever heard of the six degrees of separation theory? The idea is that we are only separated from anyone in the world through six mutual “friends” (although technology has now shrunk the hypothesis to four degrees). If that’s hard to believe, we challenge you to try Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for fun. 

The moral of this story? Your circle of influence is greater than you realize. 

Whether you lead a team of two or two thousand, you are a leader. When you lead someone, you influence their actions and behaviors. When they, in turn, lead someone, they may be leading with those same learned behaviors. Leadership tends to have a trickle effect. Your influence (the number of people impacted by your leadership) is much greater than you can imagine. You have a leadership shadow, and it covers more than you think. 

But there’s another side to this reach theory. Because how you lead depends on more than just your interactions with followers. Just like your reach as a leader circles further than you might picture, your shadow as a leader stretches far past the inspirational talks you give your team or your organizational talents. There is more to your leadership shadow than we typically associate with leader-like tasks. It’s not just about managing staff, driving vision, or inspiring the team. There are things that you do that you would never associate with your leadership that actually play a role in how your team views your success as a leader. 

The Leadership Shadow Model was created by Goldman Sachs’ Pine Street Leadership Initiative. The model covers four basic components that we will list now. 


This part of your shadow covers everything you say…and what you don’t say! It includes the context you provide in conversation and how you frame challenges. How compelling and concise you make your messages. How often you give updates. And what you emphasize. 

2) HOW I ACT. 

The second piece of the model covers items like your behaviors, decisions, role modeling, and relationships. 


Thirdly, the model looks at how you visibly lead processes, what you spend time on, who you interact with, and your routines and meetings.


Finally, the model measures how you reward and recognize your team. It examines your process for accountability, transparency, and feedback. 

In the middle of leading, it can be easy to forget that our followers are watching everything. You aren’t only leading when you are in front of people or giving a speech to your team. Your shadow extends far beyond your time in the spotlight. 

Take some time today to examine your leadership. Focus on more than just the communication side or the personal interactions. Dissect how your followers may interpret your priorities, actions, and measurements. Are your choices mirroring how you want to be known as a leader? Or do they tell the story of someone who does not fully value their team? You can shape your leadership shadow. But the first step is awareness of how it is perceived.