LEADERSHIP & The Dark Side of Leadership: What it is and how to overcome it.

Commentary by Prof. B.: In my leadership classes students read Peter Northouse’s classic “Introduction to leadership.” In that textbook Northouse reminds us that not all leadership is good. He suggests there is a the dark side of leadership which he describes as, “the destructive side of leadership where a leader uses his or her influence or power for personal ends.”

Here is the way Northouse introduces this concept:

QUOTE Northouse Dark Side of Leadership.jpg

Peter G. Northouse, Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice (New York: Sage Publications. Kindle Edition, 2011) p. 9.

In response to his statement one student said, “we allow for horrible men and women throughout history to be considered ‘great’ leaders.  We usually equate ‘agreeable outcomes’ with ‘great leadership.’ The big question then is: was Hitler a great leader?  That sounds like a landmine in a conversation…”

Though it is a landmine in a conversation, it must be addressed. One place I do this in my courses is in (e.g. in Alexander Hill’s writing) the importance of ethical practices and altruistic objectives in moral leadership.

In addition, a helpful book on this topic was written by a colleague of mine and his doctor of ministry student. It is titled: Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007). In this book Macintosh and Riva not only explore moral and ethical failures but also theological failure. They point out it is due to egoism subtly influencing our altruism. And they give ways to stay focused on God’s altruistic purposes.

Here are the five steps they suggest to overcoming your leadership darkside,:

1) Acknowledge your dark side

2) Examine your past

3) Resist the poison of expectations

4) Practice progressive self-knowledge

5) understand your identity in Christ

For more insights (and tools to displace the lure of our ego) see their helpful book: Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures