Five Steps for Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership

fullsizeoutput_ac8In my previous posts on Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima‘s Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, I summarized their key assumptions in the book, the definition of the dark side, how the dark side develops, and five dark-side issues leaders often encounter. In this final post on the book, I turn to the third, and most hopeful, part of the book: “Redeeming Our Dark Side.” If reading my posts up to this point has made you despair of growing beyond your dark side, please make sure to read this part. As the book concludes, McIntosh and Rima suggest five steps to overcoming the dark side of leadership, which I’d like to summarize below.

  1. Acknowledge Your Dark Side (165-171): “Though it may sound simplistic, if we want to overcome our dark side, we need to start by acknowledging its existence and understanding the shape it has taken over the years. For many people who have spent a lifetime in church, this is not quite as easy as it sounds” (168). Christians tend to blame our failures on “the enemy,” minimize issues by saying “I’m forgiven,” or rationalizing our dark tendencies. However, until we name the dark side for what it is we will never grow through and beyond it. Like David confronted by Nathan the prophet, we must say here the hard words, “I am that man,” and then move through authentic repentance to growth.
  2. Examine the Past (172-180): “We are the sum of the experiences in our lives. The most successful and effective leaders recognize this and are able to separate fact from fiction in their childhood memories while understanding the role these memories have played in their personal development” (174). Because our past experiences often shape our deepest drives, an appropriate reflection on our past history with the guidance of the Holy Spirit can help us see motivating factors and historic patterns that shape us positively or negatively. This may lead us into a season of repentance, a need for conversation with someone in our lives, or inviting God into the broken places of our past. Ultimately, “gaining freedom from the power of your dark side involves extending forgiveness in some form” (179).
  3. Resist the Poison of Expectations (181-198): Expectations shapes our lives. Some are helpful and necessary, while others are imposed upon us by ourselves or others in ways that create a legalistic sense of obligation or a debilitating craving to proves ourselves that can be destructive. “If we are to overcome the power of the dark side, it will require resisting the poison of extrabiblical, unrealistic, legalistic expectations in favor of God’s liberating grace. We will need to identify the numerous sources of the expectations that bind us and then soundly reject then. Be warned. It will not be an easy task for those who have lived under their weight for many years” (196).
  4. Practice Progressive Self-knowledge (199-212): “In addition to the previous three steps, gaining any measure of control over our dark side will involve the ongoing process of fathering knowledge about ourselves through the practice of specific disciplines and the use of certain tools” (199). We must engage in spiritual disciplines such as Scripture reading, personal retreats, devotional reading, or journaling to know ourselves in God’s presence. Along with that, other tools, such as personality profiles professional counseling, personal accountability groups, or formal performance evaluations, can help us to know ourselves better so as to avoid ignorance of our dark side.
  5. Understand Your Identity in Christ (213-219): “Ultimately all of the previous four steps will leave us feeling frustrated and empty if we do not understand and accept our true identity in Jesus Christ. We must come to the point where we recognize that our value is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or the power that we wield. Rather, our worth exists independently of anything we have ever done or will do in the future. Without the grace of God that is found in his son, Jesus, Christ, as Isaiah the prophet declared, our best efforts and most altruistic acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6). Everything we might learn about our dark side will be without significant benefit if we fail to find our value in Christ” (213).

What do you think about these five steps to overcoming our dark side?

Is there something that’s missing, or does this cover it?

Which of these are most difficult for you?

Which of these have you benefited from?

Praying for Unity in Conflict [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)

In our earthly lives, we will at times falter in the battlefields of conflict. We may find ourselves raising our voices against one another in anger or bitterness. Sometimes we do this to another’s face with harsh words and false accusations, while at other times we secretly pass the sweet morsels of gossip or shards of slander into the ears of another.

No matter how it happens, when we stumble into the lands of conflict, the journey toward restored relationships and unity must be infused with prayer. Yes, we must use the best of the wisdom found in the Proverbs of the Bible and the greatest advice of wise counselors. Still, true unity will never come through human efforts alone. When conflict arises in us or around us, the best first step is to fall down on our knees and cry out to the God of the universe in prayer. He alone can speak to the hearts of others – and also to our own hearts – about the causes of conflict and remedies for unity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: “Christ stands between us, and we can only get into touch with our neighbors through him. That is why intercession is the most promising way to reach our neighbors, and corporate prayer, offered in the name of Christ, the purest form of fellowship.”[1]

If your heart is bound with bitterness or rolling in rage, now is the time to desert the battlefields of conflict and seek the sweet remedy of the glory of God released in prayer. As we do this, we may surprisingly find that God not only changes the other person or situation, but He changes us as well. In fact, we may find that we are the one who most needs to be changed.

Prayer is truly the pathway to unity through transformed relationships.

Father,
the conflict rages all around us
  and within us.
We need Your help
  and Your grace,
to turn away from the battlefield
and turn to Your table.
There, help us sit
  as brothers and sisters
in Your holy presence,
  sharing the cup of our salvation
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.


[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995).

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

Open Wounds [Life of Joseph, part 4]

After returning from international travels this past week, I returned to Eastbrook to continue our series “The Life of Joseph: God’s Sovereignty in Our Suffering.” This weekend we explored Genesis 42-44, with special attention to the transformation that occurs in Joseph’s brothers, particularly in Judah.  My goal in this message was to open up the ways in which the pathway to healing often involves stepping into painful places to catalyze growth. I outlined three cuts – or steps – into difficulty that we see helps restore relationship and ignite spiritual growth in these chapters.

You can view the message and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast. Also, join in with our daily devotional that accompanies this series during Lent.

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Compassion (discussion questions)

jesus-on-the-move-series-gfx_app-squareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Compassion,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series, “Jesus on the Move.” The text for this week are from Luke 8:40-56 and 9:37-43.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When did you experience compassion from someone directly or observe it in someone else?
  2. We continue the series “Jesus on the Move” by looking at three stories from Luke 8 and 9. Before you begin this study, ask God to speak to you from His Word. Then, whether you are alone or with a group, read Luke 8:40-56 and 9:37-43 aloud.
  3. In these three stories, Jesus encounters three different types of people and situations. Take a moment to compare and contrast the three different groups of people he is spending time with: who are they?; what is their predicament?; why do they seek out Jesus?; what else do you notice?
  4. Jesus’ first encounter is interrupted by the second encounter with a woman suffering from a bleeding problem (8:43-48). What do you find most surprising about this story? What do you notice most about how Jesus responds to this woman and her difficulties?
  5. The delay with this woman apparently keeps Jesus from reaching his destination in Jairus’ daughter (8:49). What does Jesus do in response to this news? What is different about Jesus from everyone else here?
  6. Have you ever had a time when you felt afraid to approach Jesus like the woman or like Jesus didn’t show up on time as with Jairus’ daughter? What happened?
  7. The third story takes place immediately after the transfiguration, where Jesus’ glory is revealed. What is notable about Jesus’ response to this situation in contrast with His disciples’ response?
  8. What is one thing that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, take some time to write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, share it with one another.

  


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we are arranging a weekday reading plan through this entire series with the Gospel of Luke. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Follow along with the reading plan below, through the Eastbrook app, or on social media.

Jan. 30          Luke 8:40-48; Mark 5:21-34
Jan. 31           Luke 8:49-56; Mark 5:35-43
Feb. 1             Luke 9:37-43
Feb. 2             Mark 1:40-44
Feb. 3             John 3:16; 1 John 5:1-11