The Inner Work of Leadership: Managing the Fantasy-Self and Reality

Leadership roles are inherently complex, demanding a delicate balance between aspiration and reality – a dance between the aspirational “Fantasy-Self” and the grounding “Don’t-Be-Stupid-Self.” As leaders continue to straddle these two disparate worlds, the challenge lies in integrating both for better leadership.

The “Fantasy-Self” refers to the image we create in our minds of who we want to be as leaders. It’s a projection of one’s aspirations, values, and ideals. It’s the leader who always makes the right decisions, who is unwavering and flawless. The “Fantasy-Self” feeds on ambition and ignites the drive for self-improvement.

On the other hand, the “Don’t-Be-Stupid-Self” serves as a grounding force. This is the voice of reality, reminding of our human limitations, past mistakes, and areas needing improvement. It’s a reality check, bringing leaders back from the land of dreams and into the real world.

While the “Fantasy-Self” is inspiring, fixating on it may lead to feelings of inadequacy and shortcoming, as one can never reach this ideal. Conversely, an overemphasis on the “Don’t-Be-Stupid-Self” can dampen enthusiasm, curb risk-taking, and limit growth.

The key to effective leadership lies in acknowledging and embracing the dichotomy of these two selves. It’s about harnessing the inspiring vision of the “Fantasy-Self” while having enough self-awareness to keep grounded in reality. It involves translating the ambitious vision into achievable goals, coupled with acceptance of mistakes and failures along the way.

Maintaining a balance between the “Fantasy-Self” and the “Don’t-Be-Stupid-Self” is the essence of leadership’s inner work. It allows for a broader perspective, encourages humility, fosters resilience, and ultimately, shapes more grounded, authentic, and effective leaders.

About Author