As part of my ongoing reflections on pastoral ministry, ministry in the North American evangelical church, and questions of ministry integrity (see my posts “Real Discipleship in a Consumer Church,” “Five Themes of Resilient Ministry,” and “Recovering Holiness“), I pulled a book off the shelf that I read over ten years ago entitled Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima. This is an outstanding book that is both immensely helpful and chilling. I want to share a few things from this book over this coming week, but let me start with the basic assumptions upon which the book is written. If you take them seriously, you cannot help but become reflective right away. It is, in one sense, an outworking of the prophet Jeremiah’s words: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
As in all works, there are numerous assumptions foundational to the development of this book and the reader’s understanding of the material presented. These are assumptions derived from our study of various subject matters, including our own personal experiences, a substantial array of literature on the subjects of leadership and personal dysfunction, and observation and conversations with those involved in the leadership of churches and numerous Christian organizations. Briefly, it is assumed:
- Every leader suffers from some degree of personal dysfunction varying from extremely mild to extremely acute.
- Personal dysfunction, in one form or another, can often serve as the driving force behind an individual’s desire to achieve success as a leader.
- Many leaders are not aware of the dark side of their personalities and the personal dysfunctions that drive them.
- The personal characteristics that drive individuals to succeed and lead often have a shadow side that can cripple them once they become leaders and very often causes significant failure. This dynamic is what has been labeled in this book the “paradox of personal dysfunction in leadership.”
- Learning about their own dark side and the dysfunction that have created it can enable leaders to address those areas and prevent, or at least mitigate, the potential negative effects to their exercise of leadership.
- Scripture has much to say about the dark side of human personality and the motivations that drive us to achieve, which can be helpful to leaders in their efforts to understand themselves and overcome those areas of their personalities that might threaten their effectiveness as leaders.
When you read these assumptions, what do you think? Do you agree with them or not?
If you read this and thought of someone else the entire time, then you should probably read through them again while giving attention to yourself.