Quick now…can you think of a politician, a business paragon, a church leader or a cultural celebrity, whose life cratered with shards of self-destruction flying off in all directions?
Sadly, the litany of discredited leadership in our lifetime is a perversely long one. We all know of church leaders whose moral failure destroyed their marriage and shocked their congregation; of priests who wantonly abused susceptible children; of business elites now languishing in prison; of politicians who succumbed to graft and corruption; of celebrities whose secret lives are nothing short of repulsive and shocking.
What explains this ever-present tendency to “march on the dark side?” How can we as Corpath leaders preserve and protect our integrity, our reputations, our conscience before God, and our leadership legacy in the face of dark-side temptations? What steps can we take to ensure we do not become more road kill on the wrong side of the leadership highway?
Here is a humble suggestion. Every Corpath member should read Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by McIntosh and Rima. It’s one of my five top recommended books on leadership. Consider these nuggets:
Simply put, the first human leadership failure was the result of unrestrained pride and selfishness, with a healthy dose of self-deception.
We are capable of transforming even the most selfishly motivated action into an act of sacrificial altruism in our own minds, in keeping with Jeremiah who tells us, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.” (17:9)
Every leader possesses within him or her the raw material necessary for the manufacture of the dark side. None of us is immune.
Though we may be only subconsciously aware of our dark side, there are signals that point to it: a drive to succeed, desire to be accepted, irrational fear, a need to be in control, perfectionism or various compulsions. Our dark side is inclined to be an overcompensation for needs that have not been met in our lives.
Truth be told, the dark side infects us all as leaders. It derives from our fallen nature and feeds off the early experiences of our lives which in some way left us wounded, threatened, fearful or angry. And consequently, we have an existential debt from the past that we are unwittingly driven to repay through our dark side behaviors. There is a certain twistedness in each of us, and in our more candid moments of self-reflection, we know this is true.
Consider the following dark-side behaviors and examples from the Bible:
The COMPULSIVE leader – Moses
…controller, workaholic, status-conscious, judgemental
The NARCISSISTIC leader – Solomon
…image is everything, feelings of inferiority, restless ambition
The PARANOID leader – Saul
…suspicious of others, insecure, coerce loyalty
The CODEPENDENT leader – Samson
…keep the peace, fail to confront, ease pain, burnout
The PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE leader – Jonah
…impulsive, impatient, complaining, procrastinate
We live in a fallen world. And if we are not careful there are trip-wires everywhere that will exploit the dark-side potential of our fallen nature and sabotage our Corpath mission to achieve excellence in business, in life, and in spirit. In my more candid moments, I admit to having walked on the dark side of leadership. It was never pretty; it was never life-giving; it never honored God. It only bred more dysfunction, more compulsion, more dark-side outcomes.
But the great truth is that Christ appeared to set us free from our dark side and live consistently in the light as he did. In every situation, he was a life-giving leader, a moral force for good. Christ is the divine, life-rescuing antidote to every dark-side poison. Didn’t he say, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Didn’t he also say, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)
Life-giving leaders are those who acknowledge their dark side and overcome its compulsions through the redemptive, freedom-giving power of Christ. Leaders who have been liberated from their dark-side dysfunctions are a rare gift to their family, their church, their friends and their business.
As Corpath leaders we can,
“…choose to acknowledge our dark side, practice a life of transparency before God, and let down our guard, knowing he will begin his refining and empowering work in us; or we can choose to live in denial and even masquerade before God, fueling the ongoing development of our dark side. The course we choose determines the nature of our leadership journey and the condition in which we arrive at our final destination. (Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, p. 158)
Blessings for a journey of life-giving leadership ahead,