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shadow awareness that takes you to a new level

Are you interested in finding a better leader within you?

The honey-ghost-trap is a leadership-development process that helps leaders understand themselves from an entirely new perspective. The process enables leaders to accept their whole selves: both the parts they like and those they dislike.

Do you need to take your leadership to a new level to be able to create new results? Then the process with the honey-ghost-trap might be for you.

Are you interested to know how the honey-ghost-trap can benefit yourself or the leaders in your organization?


Individual online coaching:

During three individual coaching sessions, lasting 60–90 minutes each, you will explore various aspects of yourself using the honey-ghost-trap. The meetings will be led by Ann Askenberger and take place online in either English or Swedish.

  • During the first meeting, we will work through the model and create your freedom-of-choice map.
  • During the second meeting, we will reflect on the new personality traits revealed by the “honey-ghost-trap” and discuss how you can use them to strengthen your leadership capacities.
  • The third meeting will take place three months later. We will reconnect with the model to review what has happened and explore new challenges.

Stand-alone program for a team.

It may be interesting and valuable for your entire management team to engage with the honey-ghost-trap. The process can be precious when you face a shared challenge, where each member of the team must contribute in his or her own way. This method can reveal internal obstacles, which can prevent individuals from fully implementing essential changes. When working with an existing team, we alternate between team meetings and individual coaching sessions online. It’s also possible to arrange a hybrid process, mixing online training with live workshops.

As part of a more extended leadership development initiative.

The honey-ghost-trap works well as both an independent educational experience and part of a broader leadership offering within a more extended leadership-development program. Since 2018, AnnLeda has developed several different leadership programs, all of which can be combined with the honey-ghost-trap.  These include:

  • Nine critical competencies that everyone in the management team needs to master
  • Nine capabilities that everyone in the team needs to have
  • Make it happen – getting past internal obstacles to create change
  • Create a healthy culture of feedback – finding the right level of feedback
  • Coaching for non-coaches – how leaders can lead conversations better

Are you interested to know how the honey-ghost-trap can benefit yourself or the leaders in your organization?

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What is the shadow?

Your shadow side is everything that you don’t want to be but know that you are deep down. The shadow includes qualities you fear other people would condemn you for and those you are capable of, but don’t dare to express.

C.J. Jung called the inferior, unwanted part of the self the “shadow.” As the American poet Robert Bly explained, the shadow is like an invisible bag. From a young age, we place all the traits and behaviors our parents cannot accept in the bag. These parts of ourselves become our shadow, hidden in the unconscious. As the years pass, we throw more and more unwanted traits into the bag, which gets heavier and harder to carry. Ultimately, our childhood personalities are reduced to a single slice of the whole, after our teenage years. According to Bly, we then spend the rest of our lives recovering long-forgotten traits.

All leaders – even the best – have a shadow side. You might not be aware of it, but others probably already seeing it.

A gateway into the unknown

Of all life’s roles, leadership is among the most important and complex. Modern leaders must carry multiple roles and wear numerous masks. They are actors performing roles that impart power because leadership is about creating results and managing power wisely. Leaders must understand the emotions and admiration their positions evoke in others. For many people, it is very challenging to take up leadership roles.

Although good leaders come in many forms, they all need self-awareness, which includes knowledge of their own unconscious and darker shadow sides. The honey-ghost-trap process offers a new way to approach personal shadows in a leadership context. It can help leaders confront and accept all parts of themselves, gaining a more nuanced understanding of the qualities that make a “good leader.” When leaders learn to accept their negative traits, they gain the ability to access more ways of being. For example, they can allow themselves genuine authenticity, focus more on desired results, be less defensive when receiving feedback, and gain a deeper understanding of their subordinates.

Since we cannot eliminate all difficulties (and there is no vaccine against negative traits), we must learn to live with our shadows.

Inspired by two different traps

The honey-ghost-trap is a modern, structured way of using the Jungian concept of active imagination to access the unstructured unconscious.

A traditional ghost-trap, the Tibetan namkhar, is a handcrafted cobweb, believed to catch the ghost of someone who has recently died. The honey-ghost-trap combines the concept of a “ghost trap” with that of a “honey-trap” (something sweet that attracts animals or people) because it uses compassion, humor, and light to approach and explore the dark.

The honey-ghost-trap is so simple that it can be explained and understood in a few minutes. At the same time, it is complex enough to form the foundation for a structured ongoing executive-development program and to serve as a point of reference for a lifelong journey.


1. Flexibility in the face of adaptive challenges.

In theory, change is relatively easy. In real life, however, most management teams struggle to adapt to new circumstances. Consequently, behavioural changes have been a popular research topic for many years.

An adaptive challenge is a risky, time-consuming journey into the unknown, which can only be resolved by changing people’s mindsets. Many leaders lack the competence and self-belief to guide their organizations through such changes and transformations. A leader with an inflexible persona can actually make things worse by catalysing frustration, confusion, and panic.

Shadow-training introduces leaders to new and unexpected traits and capabilities, freeing up energy to exercise or release power, in accordance with their goals. It is easy for leaders to ask their subordinates to change—more complicated to change themselves.

2. Containing negative projections and feedback.

Leaders at the top must exercise self-awareness and contain their own negative feelings, rather than acting on every impulse. Change initiatives can be challenging for employees to accept; a leader who cannot contain negative emotions is likely to respond badly to criticism and lose valuable energy. While defensive leaders block valuable input, leaders trained in shadow work can be open to accepting and learning from feedback.

Shadow training can help leaders accept multiple aspects of themselves. By clearing away primitive emotions, such leaders can become more direct and assertive communicators. The process teaches them to talk about what matters without being blocked by the fear of being perceived in negative ways.

3. Get a more realistic picture of yourself.

All relationships are influenced by previous relationships, especially parental ones. Freud called this phenomenon “transference.” Transference is essential for a child’s emotional development. It begins when an infant sees the smiling eyes of its mother, who functions as a mirror, helping the child create boundaries.

As Professor Manfred Kets de Vries has pointed out, many leader-following situations are proven opportunities for distorted mirroring. Since leaders are authority figures, the mechanism of transference frequently operates in leader/follower relationships. This mirroring dynamic can quickly become collusive. All subordinates have an inner “leader in mind”, who embodies what they want to see and differs from their actual leaders. As a consequence, followers tend to project all kinds of unrealistic fantasies onto their leaders, who are generally unaware of this natural transference.

Shadow training can help leaders identify such psychological phenomena. When leaders stop pretending to be the heroes other people want them to be, things can really start to change in organizations. Such leaders can actually use their flaws and faults to achieve professional goals.

4. Focusing more clearly on the desired results.

In 1978, Clance and Imes introduced the concept of “imposter syndrome,” a phenomenon in which capable and knowledgeable women believed they were imposters, fooling the world. Although other people considered them capable, these women believed that their success was undeserved or accidental. Today, we know that imposter syndrome can be found in people of all genders in a wide range of organizational roles. Unfortunately, telling a person with imposter syndrome that he or she is “good enough” simply adds fuel to the fire.

Shadow training is a much more helpful approach. It can help leaders accept that everyone is incompetent in some ways, especially when taking on a new position. Leaders who accept their inferior parts can dispense with shame and create results by being fully present.

Are you interested to know how the honey-ghost-trap can benefit yourself
or the leaders in your organization?


Ann Askenberger developed the honey-ghost-trap model in 2021, while writing her Master’s thesis in the Executive Master of Change program at INSEAD in Fontainebleau (France). INSEAD is one of the world’s largest and most distinguished graduate business schools.

INSEAD students are trained to observe the invisible structures beneath the surface of every organization. These include hidden and often unconscious behaviors, which can hinder new thinking and keep us in old roles.

The study began as a qualitative inquiry into the shadow side of the leadership roles of seven women executives in top business or government positions. At the start, Ann used an ethnographic research method. However, after analyzing the extensive data, she discovered a pattern that took the thesis in a new direction. Her use of the abductive method led to the creation of the honey-ghost trap. The abductive method allows a researcher to first identify an empirical phenomenon and then create a theory to explain the data.

Ann added thirteen additional participants (ten men and three women) to the study to test the final research results, ensuring their practical value and validating the honey-ghost-trap model and process. All of the executive participants praised the process and gained valuable insights, despite having been leaders for many years.

In 2021, Ann’s thesis received a Distinction (an honor awarded to the top 10% of dissertations) at INSEAD. According to the faculty readers:

“You have delivered a high quality and original contribution to the field, a theory-based methodology that deserves further study and application. Well done and much appreciated.”

Are you interested in reading the thesis? Please fill in your contacts here

Executives responses

“I think this is great! As a leader, it is good to be able to name your dark side and talk about what you do not want to talk about. It has been a non-judgmental process. It is good to hear me saying out loud what I hate. The interesting thing about this is that you get the whole picture of you. When you put the trolls on the table, they disappear. It’s simple, playful and easy to remember.”

“To be a leader is to understand yourself. With this idea, I can gain a bigger self and use more parts of myself. This creates greater self-awareness.”

“It has been extremely rewarding to see myself in this way. You will be a much better manager if you keep track of your good and bad traits and find it easier to understand others”

“Instead of always searching for the ideal me, I am now looking for the person I also am. It is a freedom to let go of some part of myself. The shadow-work make it easier for me to understand my choices and myself a better.”

“I have been thinking a lot about the possibilities of the shadow since we talked. The shadow is also a strength. A very useful exercise. It also made me think of people I admire.”

“We no longer need to put energy into counteracting the shadows and overcompensating. I get to be who I am and regain control and ownership.”

“You have created a very nice dynamic model to easily structure, understand, and work with different sides of yourself.”

“It is good to realize that I am not just a lot of good qualities. This mindset broadens my capacities. It has been an enriching and positive process, a real ego boost.”

“The model provided a deeper insight into what my priorities are and how I can use my leadership choices.”

“You have developed a method that provides a language for how I can use all my traits as assets. It was exciting to discover how I can turn something negative into something positive.”

“This is very interesting and applicable for leader development. I intuitively agree with the whole model. Leadership is all too often discussed one-dimensionally, but in reality we have so many more qualities that we also need to be able to use. This shows the breadth of leadership. I am impressed.”

“I liked the model, it is easy to follow—if you get led—and I was surprised how fast I found my traits. I felt the process was both safe and non-judgmental. The great thing about this model is that I gain a language for things I already know.”

“What I did not know existed is so self-evident, now that I know it exists.”

“I had to delve deep into the least pleasant qualities in my shadow-side. The method has led me to accept that these traits are actually there and that we all have them. It has helped me understand how to relate to them, balance them and, above all, reconcile with them. I feel like a more complete person.”

“I really like this. In a playful way, you bring out the whole self. I understand how I can use the shadows to become a more complete and dynamic leader. And it is in the middle, at the balance-point, that I want to be. Very rewarding to have time to reflect.”


Ann Askenberger is a highly experienced leadership consultant, who focuses on the intersection of leadership, business, psychology, and the process of change in management teams.

Over the years, she has provided leadership development and executive coaching to many businesses, including corporate organizations, family-led companies, governments, non-profit organizations, and political systems.

Since 2018, Ann has run her own leadership-development company, AnnLeda AB. Prior to this, she was the co-founder and chairwoman of FranklinCovey Sweden and the CEO & President of an international PR-consultancy in Sweden.

The honey-ghost-trap process can be implemented in several ways: during individual coaching, as a team workshop, or by combining a workshop with individual coaching.

Would you like to know what the honey-ghost-trap can do for you or leaders in your organization? Please fill in your contact details so that we can get in touch!

Ann Askenberger Founder at AnnLeda AB.
© AnnLeda 2021, all rights reserved.