How the Dark Side Develops

In chapter five of Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima explore how the dark side of leadership develops in our lives.

Though we may not be aware of its presence, we have been impacted by the dark side throughout our life. There are definite signs we can become sensitive to that will help us identify the unique ways it has developed over the years as well as the specific shape it has taken in our life. Often we are conscious of these signs in our motivations and recognize their influence on our behavior, yet we are not quite able to make a solid connection between them and their source. (70)

Things like “a drive to succeed, desire to be accepted, irrational fear, need to be in control, perfectionism, or various compulsions” (82) are signals of the development of our dark side.

While building largely off Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, McIntosh and Rima propose that the “dark side is inclined to be an overcompensation for needs that have not been met in our lives and develops as we attempt to repay the existential debts of varying degrees that we have taken on” (83). Below is their chart outlining the predictable pattern within the development of our dark side (79).


For each of us the particulars will be different, but the basic process will be essentially the same….Whatever it is that you find yourself plugging into those categories in the chart, it has almost assuredly led to the development of your dark side. When those experiences and influences are combined with the raw materials of pride, selfishness, self-deception, and wrong motives, we can begin to see how our dark side develops into a powerful, controlling influence in our lives and leadership. (82)

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