Dark Side of Leadership


“Book Summary:

Overcoming the Dark
Side of Leadership”

By Steve Corn

This book should be read by any and every leader. It deals with a part of leadership which is very rarely discussed and in some cases ignored altogether. Although they never use the metaphor, the “dark side” which they discuss is an ever-present reality which influences every decision we make and everyone around us – similar to the dark side we’ve come to know from the Star Wars films. They describe it like the dark side of the moon, it is a part of our very essence and helps to make us who we are. This dark side is defined by our
natural tendencies to fill the voids left by our weaknesses and deep hurts from past experiences. The dark side is how we’ve learned to cope with life. Unfortunately, these habits (healthy or not) continue to be lived out after we become Christians and begin leading others. Throughout history many leaders have been overtaken and many great ministries/organizations have been ruined from the influence of this dark side. Gone unchecked, we risk much in our lives by ignoring its’ existence and influence. This book provides the reader with the tools necessary to understand, recognize, and redeem his/her own dark side. The church would benefit greatly if church leaders were aware of this reality and guided others in cautiously heeding its’ warnings.

Understanding Our Dark Side

The first section of the book is mostly an extended definition of what this dark side truly is. The authors are very meticulous about sharing both their own personal interactions with this presence in their lives and those of other famous leaders throughout history. They describe those who have dealt properly with the dark side like Bill Hybels and the Apostle Paul and those who have been overtaken by it like Jim Bakker and King Saul. All of these stories combine to paint a picture of the many varied forms this dark side can take on in one’s life. They describe how pressures can build within a leader and eventually our dark side emerges with an explosion of emotion or frustration. “At times the dark side seems to leap on us unexpectedly. In reality it has slowly crept up on us. The development of our dark side has been a lifetime in the making.” (pg. 22) They also attempt to break down the dark side into its building blocks so the reader can more readily recognize it while it’s being built. The building blocks they mention are pride, selfishness, self-deception and wrong motives. (pg 40-45) In addition they describe many of the signs of the shadow side as: (1) an inexplicable drive to make a significant mark with our lives (2) a profound need to be approved (3) an irrational fear that our work is inadequate (4) a need to feel in absolute control (5) perfectionism (6) many other behaviors such as overeating, compulsive spending, alcoholism, compulsive exercising, etc. (pg 50-51) In describing the development of our dark side, the authors refer to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or as it is sometimes called the “needs pyramid.” This pyramid builds from physiological needs, to safety needs, then love needs, esteem needs, and finally self-actualization. Maslow’s theory is that people must have their needs met at one level before they can get their “higher” needs met. The authors of this book suggest that sometimes we get those needs met in unhealthy ways, and this becomes the seed for a growing dark side which has learned to satisfy itself in ways that God never intended. As one grows older these behaviors become habits and will eventually explode into a full-blown dark side.

Discovering Our Dark Side

The second section of the book describes five different types of dark side leaders. It details their characteristics and then offers a self-test to the reader to determine his/her potential for falling into this category.

The compulsive leader is symbolized by Moses who felt the need to control every aspect of the Israelites movement out of Egypt – even to the point of being a judge over every matter between the people (numbering millions). These leaders tend to think they are the only ones who can do the job correctly and therefore have a hard time delegating. They also develop highly structured systems which must be followed in the minutia. Many times, this makes them workaholics. In an effort to maintain control, they will repress anger and emotions which can erupt in sudden violent outbursts and then be quickly controlled again. They also have a tendency to be very critical and enjoy the freedom the church gives them in seeking “excellence” in ministry.

The narcissistic leader is more like Solomon. Scripture is clear that he thought the world revolved around him – he did many things “for myself.” They use other people to advance their own agenda and find it difficult to recognize the efforts of others – often times taking the credit themselves. Deep feelings of inadequacy and inferiority motivate them to work/minister for the approval and admiration of others rather than for God.

Saul is a great example of the paranoid leader. He was hypersensitive to the actions and reactions of the people, always fearful of potential rebellion. These leaders are intensely jealous of other gifted people because they are so insecure in themselves. They overreact to criticism and tend to believe there are ulterior motives into the most innocent of actions. They love to keep their hands on every area of the organization and therefore require lots of meetings and reports. They also keep a “safe distance” when it comes to relationships because close relationships require a transparency which they fear will potentially undermine their leadership.

The codependent leader is represented by Samson. He continually involved himself in self-destructive behaviors. These leaders are masters of denial – even to the point of believing the denial to be truth. They have a serious need to please others and don’t want to disappoint anyone. They repress their emotions and feel stressed as a result. They also don’t initiate action to confront misbehaviors because they have learned to live with them, but instead will sometimes even take personal responsibility/blame for others actions. Codependent leaders often appear to be extremely loving peacemakers, but this can go too far and enable unhealthy or unbiblical behaviors.

Jonah is a passive-aggressive leader. They don’t confront, but instead act out their disapproval by procrastinating, forgetting, or just not putting their whole heart into a project. They are complainers who would rather do nothing than attempt something with the possibility of failure – or worse yet, maybe they’ll succeed and then be held to a higher standard. These leaders are not very enthusiastic and can be irritable or impatient and often can explode when their status quo is threatened.

Redeeming Our Dark Side

This third section of the book points the reader to a few specific exercises to help him in living with his dark side and even allowing it to be a positive force in his life. These steps are (1) Acknowledging our dark side (2) Examining the past (3) Resist the poison of expectations (4) Practice progressive self-knowledge and (5) Understand your identity in Christ.

Step one (acknowledging our dark side) consists of nothing more than realizing and agreeing that you are no different from the rest of the people in the world. You have a dark side too.

Step two (Examining the past) is described as a “simple process of remembering.” (pg 163) It entails remembering everything from major issues like a death in the family to minor inferiority issues arising from a nickname you were given as a child. The authors paint the picture of our intentional journey into the past saying “We must become the hammer that begins to shape our errant emotions and dark side rather than the anvil on which our dark side pounds us into a distorted image.” (pg 164)

Step 3 (Resist the poison of expectations) requires our attention to the expectations placed upon us. We should choose which ones we will own and which ones are not a reflection of our calling. If we live our lives under everyone else’s expectations, we will soon be living someone else’s life.

Step 4 (Practice progressive self-knowledge) is about spiritual disciplines involving Bible reading, personal retreats, devotional reading, journaling, and other tools for self-awareness like personality tests, counseling, accountability groups, and performance evaluations. It’s about being open to hear from others (including God) regarding your weaknesses and
dark side.

Step 5 (Understand your identity in Christ) requires an understanding that our position in Christ is not dependent on our performance, position, titles, achievements, or power. Our condition on earth is a polar opposite to our position in Christ, and our worth is based upon Him alone.

Conclusion

Unlike any other leadership book I’ve read, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership takes an honest and comprehensive look at the part of leadership that no one really likes to discuss. Most books give some insightful ideas about leading and talk about how to influence others, but ignore the reality of all the fallen leaders we’ve seen throughout history. Overcoming confronts this issue head on and allows the reader to be proactive in recognizing his own dark side so as to keep him from falling into these pitfalls. The historical and biblical stories included give the book an authentic feel so as to illustrate the concepts accurately. As I grow in my leadership roles, I intend to make this book an integral part of my life and also for training others for leadership positions. These ideas will help me to remain honest about my own spiritual dark side and hopefully, I’ll respond by being intentional in redeeming it by using some of the steps and concepts this book teaches.

Commitment?

In the church world, commitment is a highly regarded value. It’s tough to find people who are truly committed to a ministry and when you do – you hold on to them tightly ’cause they are a huge asset.

But I wonder if it’s really commitment that we’re seeking? Here’s something Dr. Ayers said in class the other day: (It’s not word for word, but my interpretation of it.)

Surrender
Commitment says, ‘I can.’ but surrender says, ‘I can’t.’ Which does God really want? Are you ‘trying’ each day out of commitment or ‘dying’ each day out of surrender to God? Instead of trying to live for Him, we should be letting God live through us.

I think some of this comes into play with the whole “enoughness” thing. When we are insecure in our own identity, we can try to make up for it by being extremely committed to something – then we get esteemed by others. It’s not very healthy though. On the other hand, when we “surrender” we get esteemed not by other people, but by God Himself. This is a much more healthy way find our identity and be esteemed. We are only enough, when we are in Christ. If our “enoughness” is found in other people esteeming us, then it probably has to do with what we can do for them and it won’t last ’cause we can’t work hard enough to satisfy the needs of another person consistently. However, if we are in Christ, he gives us an inner peace and satisfies our deepest longings and desires and we realize that we are enough simply by being with Him.

All this is to say that “surrender” is more important than “commitment.” Commitment can be about an outward appearance, but surrender comes from our inner identity.

All this makes me think of the Chris Tomlin song, “Enough.”

All of You
is more than enough for
all of me
for every thirst and every need.
You satisfy me with Your love
and all I have in You
is more than enough.

Tyranny of the Urgent

Creative Commons License photo credit: Pulpolux !!!On the rush to lunch+

Charles E. Hummel writes, “We live in a constant tension between the urgent and the important.” He talks about a cottonmill manager who said, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.”

These ideas describe my life perfectly. I can rush from one great ministry event to another without ever meeting with God. I can work my fingers to the bone serving God and never experience Him. I can get so busy with the work of God, that I don’t really ever “work.” (I’m of no use to God). We must be very careful about priorities. A leader must be intentional about deciding what things are important and he must devote time to those things even if other “good” or “urgent” things are put aside. The “good” can be the enemy of the “great.” What’s that old saying? “If the devil can’t tempt you, he’ll make you busy.” He’ll do whatever it takes to render the believer useless. If the leader doesn’t set his calendar, then the calendar will run his life for him. Each of us is gonna be held responsible for being the steward of our time so we can’t let our calendars run our lives – we’ve got to decide what’s important and what’s not.

I first learned of Hummel’s essay “Tyranny of the Urgent” quite a few years ago while doing a Bible Study called, “Growing Strong in God’s Family.” It was truly a life-changing article for me. You can check out the full article (only 4 pages) here: “Tyranny of the Urgent”

Letter to God

OK – So evidently in class the other night (while I was in the hospital) Dr Ayers, gave a journal entry assignment to write a letter to God describing how we feel about our spiritual gifts and what areas we should improve. Here we go:

Dear God,
Gosh, that’s not near enough of a salutation, but there aren’t enough words to truly give You the greeting that You deserve either. I want to take a moment to express my gratefulness for the spiritual gifts You’ve given me. Growing up, I would never have guessed that I’d be the man I am today. Your presence in my life has truly been transforming and the gifts You’ve given me have been a huge part of that work. I was the kid who hid behind the curtain in elementary school, and now You’ve got me in front of groups of people telling them the good news! In this latest assessment, it seems that You’ve given me the gifts of leadership, teaching, and faith. Although I’d never taken this test before, I’m not surprised by the results. When I looked at the results, they resonated in my soul. You have truly made me this way and in discovering these gifts, it’s as if I had known them all along – like uncovering something that was already there. I’m so excited and feel so blessed that You have given me the privilege of being a steward of these things and I’m excited to see how they will be used. What places will You carry me to use them? How will You craft them inside of me so that they will become sharper instruments in Your hands? Lord, help me to completely surrender to You. I do not want to be a bad steward. I would love to one day see You and hear the words “good and faithful”  used of me in regards to how I used these gifts.  Lord, it may be strange, but I also want to thank You for giving me the weaknesses that I have. I am clearly not very good at serving, giving, or compassion and so those are great opportunities for me to grow. They will also be areas where I can learn to trust in the body of Christ and grow by watching them. I understand that these areas are probably areas where I will get myself in trouble, areas where I will fail, and be criticized, but these are also opportunities. I will be able to demonstrate my love for You by being obedient in these ways.  These may very well be the greatest demonstrations of my love for You. It’s my prayer that I will be able to honor You in all of life. I want to honor You by working within my giftedness and efficiently serving You, but I also want to honor You in the ways that make me uncomfortable and probably don’t come as easy to me. Allow me to bring You glory with how I live. Thank You for breathing life into my bones and giving me these opportunities. It’s a privilege to be by Your side and to serve You. It’s an amazing honor for a finite sinful man like me to be given such beautiful opportunities to make eternal differences by being a steward of these gifts. I don’t want to let You down, but I’m gonna need Your help. I also trust that You will help – so Thanks for that too.

Luv ya! Steve

DISC Profile

We also did the DISC Profile personality assessment in class the other night. My scores were:

Disc
Dominate –  D = 42
Influencing – I = 41
Steady –     S = 19
Compliant – C = 18

I’m clearly a “DI” personality – (Dominate Influencer)

According to this test I am a fast, risk-taking guy who expresses himself. (I’d say that’s pretty accurate.)
As a DI personality style blend, I naturally act assertive, persuasive, and free-spirited because I want variety (and sometimes control).Disc2 If I perceive that everything will remain the same (status quo) I may respond emotionally. I am most comfortable being decisive, enthusiastic, and unstructured. When I feel fears of the status quo it causes tension for me. Under tension, I may challenge others or demand action. If this intensifies the conflict I may become sarcastic or blame others.

Spiritual Gifts Assessment

Gift Over the years, I’ve done quite a few different spiritual gifts assessments. The one we did tonight in class was a “blind” test. (One where you don’t know what gifts you’re answering about) It also included a large list of gifts and defined them a bit differently than the one I normally wok with. Here are the scores I got tonight:

Leadership – 24
Teaching – 23
Faith – 23
Pastoring – 21
Hospitality – 19
Exhortation – 17
Wisdom – 17
Administration – 16
Prophecy – 12
Evangelism – 12
Mercy – 10
Giving – 6
Service – 5

The test I normally use only checks for what they describe as the “motivational gifts,” which includes only 7 gifts: Teaching, Perceiving, Exhortation, Administration, Giving, Serving, and Compassion. Each time I’ve taken that one I end up with Exhortation and Teaching as my highest scores. Interestingly enough they define exhortation a little differently – in this test, it is a combination of encouraging and pastoring. The test I took tonight pretty well matches what I’ve seen before if you take that into account.

Certainly interesting results considering the kinds of things God has been placing on my heart lately. Hmm????

Lions and Leadership

Lion
I wrote a post quite a while ago called “Lions Little Boys and Me” that talks about the difference between boys and men. There’s quite a bit which leads me to the conclusion that, “Boys live life trying to prepare for when Satan attacks them, and men live planning their attack on the lion. It’s the difference in living life defensively or offensively. Another BIG difference is that boys get attacked by a lion they never see, but men . . . CHOOSE THEIR LION.

I’ve been reading another book lately called “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” by Mark Batterson. Somehow these ideas converge and mean something very powerful in regards to leadership. It’s not intended to be a book on leadership, but “In a Pit” is exactly that. It’s based off an obscure little Scripture in 2 Samuel 23:20 that describes a man, Beniah, who actually chases a lion into a pit. What is it in a man that would make him react in this way? This is what Batterson wrestles with. When broken down, he suggests that these kinds of men, these lion chasers are men who:

1. Defy the Odds

2. Face their Fears

3. Overcome Adversity

4. Embrace Uncertainty

5. Take Risks

6. Seize Opportunity

7. Look Foolish

These are exactly the kinds of qualities I’ve been reading about in all these leadership books. These characteristics are those of the leader. Throughout the book Batterson tells many stories about his own journey into leadership and how God has used each of his experiences to shape him into the man he is today.

In comparing this to my post from a few years ago – I can’t help but think that God is using this to stir something in me. What is the lion that I’ve gotta chase? Could it be this dream of planting a church? I want to be a man who chooses his lion and then chases it down (trusting God) without hesitation. I believe that God will continue to reveal these things to me as He sees fit. When I’m ready, He’ll show me more. I guess I’m excited to know more now though (that patience thing rears it’s ugly head again).

Prayer: Lord, give me patience, but let me keep this passion/excitement that’s burning inside for You and Your plans/desires.

Stars and Vision

The other night Miranda and I decided to go out to eat in Pearland. Montana, one of the youth, was bored and called us so she ended up going with us. As we drove back towards Lake Jackson, Miranda said that it would be a beautiful night to look at the stars. We were pretty close to the exit for Brazos Bend State Park, which is also where the George Observatory is, so I said, “Why not? We don’t have any other big plans, so let’s go on over there.” We had always talked about checking it out, but never done it. Anyway, we got there and it all ended up being a bit more costly than I had thought, but still, a great experience. There were quite a few amateur astronomers out there with their telescopes pointed to quite a few different things and they all allowed us to look too. It was, in some ways, a pretty cool little community. I wonder how the church church would be  different if everyone shared their excitement and passions with others?

Holmes_4
Anyway, we got a really close look at the moon, the planet Neptune, a “double-double,” M15, and Holmes’ Comet. The talk of the night was Holmes’ comet. Evidently in the past few days it changed from a very dim comet to a very bright one. It orbits somewhere just inside Jupiter and takes six years to go around the sun one time. It also doesn’t have a tail like I imagined comets to have. Most theories about why it’s gotten brighter have to do with it breaking up and gaining more surface area to be seen. It can be seen with the naked eye right now. The double-double is actually four stars. Two pairs of them have somehow gotten into an orbit around each other. They look like two stars until you look a little closer and realize there are actually four. M15
M15 was pretty interesting too. It’s a globular cluster of stars that are 3500 light years away. That means that the image I was looking at was 3500 years old. They may not exist at all right now – it just took 3500 years for the light to travel that distance – it’d be another 3500 years before I could look at what it actually looks like today. Weird stuff to think about. This means that as we learn to look deeper and deeper into space we can actually see into history itself. Considering that they say they have seen stars millions of light years away, how does this fit with the whole creation story in Genesis? How old is the earth? Are faith and science at odds? I’ll never know the answers to these questions, but these kinds of experiences make me think.

OK – so if we can see into the past, is it possible to see the future? How can I be the kind of man who can lead others into the future that God desires for them? In order to find certain stars in the sky, the astronomers used other stars as reference points. Over the years I’ve learned to figure out God’s direction by looking into my past and focusing on specific reference points to draw a line into the future. I understand how that works for an individual, but what about doing that for a group? a church? a ministry? How far do you need to look into the past? How do you determine what reference points to focus on? Is this why relationship is so important? – so people will trust you with their past enough for you to discover a future? How do I find the “yellow brick road” for  a group of people? Or do I just start walking the road He has for me (like Dorthy) and get others to join me in the journey?

Prayer:
OK God. I’ve got all kinds of questions. I know You’re using this time in my life to expand my understanding and view of You, and I’m so grateful to be growing. Help me to answer these questions and lead me to ask the right questions. I truly want the future that You have for me.

Life Stories

We spent the whole time in class last night sharing our life stories with each other. Each person at the table was required to spend 20-30 minutes telling the rest of the group the ups and downs of their life. The whole idea revolves around the fact that a leader leads out of who he is. He leads out of his character. And these experiences truly make us who we are.

Anyway, it was an amazing time. We have spent an entire year with the same group of people and yet we learned so much more about each other last night. You never know as much about people as you think you do. There’s always more to what makes people act the way they do. There’s a reason someone gets angry so quickly, or why certain things just get our their nerves. There’s a reason that they have the habits they do and use the words that they use. There’s always a story. Stories make us who we are. We all have them. We all are in the midst of living out our own stories.

After our experience last night, I’m reminded of how valuable our stories really are. I can’t help but think that somehow, the church has lost the art of story telling. I mean, truly, the Scriptures we have today are ultimately a result of the verbal tradition of story telling. How much richer our lives would be today if we reclaimed this art form. We’d learn so much from one another. We could more readily understand people’s hearts. We’d learn how to listen too.  How to sympathize and love someone through their struggles. How to look beyond the present circumstances to see the bigger picture. Ultimately, we’d encounter God as He interacts and breaks into each of our life stories.

If there’s anything I’d encourage you to do, it’s this:
(1) Learn to tell your story.
(2) Tell someone, tell anyone or everyone.
(3) Give someone the gift of your time and a listening ear and ask them to tell you their story.

Painting the Future

Hiro
Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to “paint” the future? That’s exactly what Isaac Mendez does. (He’s a character  from the TV show “Heroes.”) I believe that’s what a good spiritual leader does too. They imagine (or they are told by God about) a better future and paint/interpret those ideas so that others can see them and get on board to accomplish that goal.

Check this out.
The stages of a painter’s life are: (from The Leadership Challenege, Kouzes & Posner, pg 58-62)

1. Paint the exterior landscapes. (They follow other models.)

2. Paint the interior landscapes. (They seek to know themselves.)

3. Paint themselves.  (They express themselves in their own style.)

This just makes me excited, ’cause I see myself in stage 2 of this model. I’m learning more and more about who I am and how God has gifted me. I have been through some leadership and followed other people’s models, but now those models just seem inadequate. Everything seems to be pointing to the idea that I’m right on the edge of what might be the greatest ministry time of my life. It’s my prayer, that God will continue to reveal Himself to me regarding all of this. I’m excited about the future as I travel along by His side.

Prayer:

Lord, keep me humble and walking with to You. I love being with You. AMEN!

Here’s another idea that has me thinking the same way:
Henry and Richard Blackaby (Spiritual Leadership, pg 43-46) write about the stages of leadership development put forth by Robert Clinton in his work, The Making of a Leader. Here’s how it works:

1. Sovereign Foundations – God’s activity during formative years.
2. Inner Life Growth – Development of character and spiritual life.
3. Ministry Maturing – Early attempts at spiritual leadership.
4. Life Maturing – Learning to lead in their strengths. Connect character to leadership.
5. Convergence – Maximum effectiveness where ministry and life experience converge to a specific role. This is what the spiritual leader will be most remembered for – their greatest success.
6. Afterglow or Celebration – Celebrating and building upon work of convergence. Also a time for training up new leaders.

Wow! This stuff makes me really excited ’cause I feel like I can look at my life and say that I’m in step 4 – the Life Maturing stage.  (By the way doesn’t that stage sound alot like the “paint the interior landscape” stage 2 in the other model?) That means that I’ve still got Convergence ahead of me. That also means that the dreams I have about the future are going to come around right about the same time that I hit the “maximum effectiveness” stage of development. I could never have orchestrated all of this – it’s only by God’s hand and His intervention. That also means that He is intimately involved in preparing me for a future that will go beyond my imaginations.

I couldn’t imagine a better place to be. I have a genuine hope for my future.