Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

But I love Indiana Jones

Written by: on February 9, 2019

I have thought for a while that leadership literature was kind of cultish. But I love it. Tourish highlights that the leaders themselves are encouraged by this literature to a develop a king od cult like following around their irresistible vision. Tourish had my attention from page 1 but really had me on the edge of my seat when he started taking shots at Jim Collins early on. On page 13 Tourish puts all of Jim Collins work in his scope, claiming that he is the poster child of spreading the over-attribution myth that it all has to do with the leader. Tourish wrote, “Collins explicitly invokes the notion of cults, arguing that leaders of organization should seek to infuse them with a ‘cult like’ enthusiasm for greatness.”[1] (I mean this sounds pretty good if I’m the leader. I would love to have people utterly devoted to my vision and instinctively following my ideas…. Ok that’s my dark side showing…)

As I read this introduction and Tourish’s bashing on the over-attribution of agency and the top leader, I wrote in the margin of my book, “so much for the old adage, ‘everything rises and falls on leadership.’” Tourish of course is not arguing the opposite, that everything is happenstance and environmental factors outside of our control. That would certainly be under-attribution. But from sports teams to banking, government and even to church leadership there is a huge cultural tendency to give over attribution to the leader.

Tourish brought an example in this introductory chapter to the Harrison Ford movie Air Force 1, in which the president is also the one who gets it done himself, even resorting to good old-fashioned fisticuffs when needed. I think another illustration may be another Harrison Ford movie, Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. The funny thing about this movie, is that the protagonist actually does not have any effect what so ever on the outcome of the movie. As this geek fan theory points out, and has recently been made more popular by its incorporation in a Big Bang Theory episode,[2] Indiana Jones is not the one who stops the Nazi’s and his involvement of the story makes no impact on the outcome. And YET, Indiana Jones is still the leader and the celebrated hero. A prime example of over-attribution to the leader! Even Forbes is guilty of this over-attribution as they recently published a leadership lesson based off of Indiana Jones. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/geoffloftus/2017/03/16/indiana-joness-five-leadership-lessons/#2b28ea1f42c6)

Another interesting point that author points out is that the dark side is something that has always been there, but just now has an opportunity to show itself. To use another pop culture reference, for the last 10 years one of the most popular tv shows has been the walking dead. One of the aspects that set the show apart early on was their take on Zombies. Instead of the innocent human lives needing to be bit and infected to turn, all the humans were actually already infected. And anybody who dies turns into a “walker”, whether they were bit or not. The human condition was already contaminated.Likewise, this darkside of leadership is already there. If you’re in leadership your darkside is already there, its just laying their dormant. Slattery summarizes “For example, a ‘good’ leader who is diligent and dutiful may become overbearing, demanding and perfectionist during times of stress.”[3]

One thing I was confused by in the book was, “However, Maccoby (2004) and Ket de Vries (1997) argue that not all narcissist leaders are destructive. Instead, narcissistic leaders who have a degree of emotional intelligence and empathy, can be constructive to organizational outcomes as they use their extraordinary gifts of vision.”[4] I am confused as to why narcissism can be tied with empathy. If a leader has empathy than that would make them not narcissistic. However, I suppose a narcissistic leader may use empathy simply as a performance and as a means to end. The action is warmth and care for others, but the desire and results are fulfilling their own desires. This makes it impossible to tell if the leader is actually empathetic or a sociopath. We could wait and see and look at the fruit the tree bears, and how a person finished the race, but even then how would we know? It is only God who looks at the heart.



Works Cited

Slattery, Collin. “Troubling Times at The Top.” http://www.conference.co.nz. www.SemmansLattery.com, November 2009. http://www.conference.co.nz/files/docs/darksideofleadership2.pdf.

ThePayneism. “The Big Bang Theory – Amy Ruins the Indiana Jones Franchise.” YouTube. YouTube, November 2, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWE6M-rhh2U.

Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: a Critical Perspective. Hove: Routledge, 2013.




[1] Dennis Tourish, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: a Critical Perspective (Hove: Routledge, 2013). Page 13

[2] ThePayneism, “The Big Bang Theory – Amy Ruins the Indiana Jones Franchise,” YouTube (YouTube, November 2, 2013), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWE6M-rhh2U.

[3] Collin Slattery, “Troubling Times at The Top,” http://www.conference.co.nz (www.SemmansLattery.com, November 2009), http://www.conference.co.nz/files/docs/darksideofleadership2.pdf.


[4] Collin Slattery, “Troubling Times at The Top,” http://www.conference.co.nz (www.SemmansLattery.com, November 2009), http://www.conference.co.nz/files/docs/darksideofleadership2.pdf.


About the Author

Kyle Chalko

10 responses to “But I love Indiana Jones”

  1. Hey Kyle,
    I wonderif the answer to your question lies in Friedman’s book, The Failure of Nerve. He talks about how the “empathy” that is all the rage these days is a false empathy, tied not to genuine concern for the other, but enmeshed relationships where I need the other to be thriving in order that I might thrive. The classic example is the pastor’s rebel kid. The pastor prays diligently for the child to return to the flock, but not out of pure love for the child, but because the child’s behavior reflects badly on the pastor.

    • Greg says:

      Wow Jenn that is an interesting take on the question. I can see a narcissistic person “faking” empathy for what would be the greater good in their mind. Through the solution that someone else helps solve, the leader is glorified(like Indiana Jones.) Thanks Kyle for an interesting discussion.

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      Jenn, I totally thought the same thing about empathy with regard to Friedman. I like your example. It does keep the leader from being a sociopath, which would be an easy leap, but still is a cold perspective on how the leader could be empathetic to their own narcissistic end.

  2. Dan Kreiss says:


    Yes, narcissism and empathy seem to be polar opposites to me as well. However, it seems that there are those who also possess a measure of EQ that holds their narcissism in check enough to remain emphatic while at the same time remain focused on their ability to lead toward their vision. My guess is that these types of leaders are rare, though I dare say many in leadership probably view themselves that way as did the college president in my example.

  3. Good post, Kyle!
    I agree. I devour leadership books by the dozens. At this point, I’ll be buying more bookshelves by the Summer semester. Lol

    It’s ironic that Tourish chose to pick on Jim Collins because they hold similar viewpoints. I remember reading Good to Great, years ago, and being shocked by Collins’ distaste when it came to charismatic leadership. As I read through the text, I thought of many authors that are highly transformative in their preaching and upheld as heroes in the church and business sector.

    For instance, Michael Hyatt has written several books on leadership and casting a vision that engages followers. Tony Robbins is another leader who makes millions on the platform of transformational leadership and motivational change.

    How did we get here? Do you find that our style of leadership within the Christian culture is driven by secularism or scripture? I’m not a big fan of Simon Sinek’s perception of Millennials; however, one quote by him has always stuck with me. He writes, “The responsibility of leadership is not to come up with all the ideas but to create an environment in which great ideas can thrive” (http://image.slidesharecdn.com/keynotesimonsinek-140918080335-phpapp02/95/leaders-eat-last-why-some-teams-come-together-and-others-dont-by-simon-sinek-20-638.jpg?cb=1415285687). What are ways that you’ve been able to create platforms for your interns to thrive? How do you welcome dissension?

  4. Jason Turbeville says:

    I loved your statement “This makes it impossible to tell if the leader is actually empathetic or a sociopath.” There are so many who fake empathy but I never gave thought to the sociopath side of that, it would be interesting to delve into that topic.


  5. Jean Ollis says:

    Hey Kyle! From a mental health standpoint, I would say that a narcissist and someone with narcissistic personality disorder are different. Having said that, I believe someone with NPD could not authentically experience empathy but someone who is just a narcissistic could have moments of empathy or perhaps experience learned empathy? Just a thought to ponder… thanks for raising the question!

  6. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hi Kyle,
    Thanks for this post and for the excellent and relatable example about Indiana Jones! I will have to re-watch that movie, but I get your point. The possibility for over-attribution is certainly there, and we see it in a lot of business/leadership literature. Anyway, thanks for getting me thinking more about this.

  7. Shawn Hart says:

    Kyle, I am not sure I can agree with you on your post…after all…do you see the Germans running the world today? I think not! Indiana Jones did stop them; after all, imagine the damage Hitler could have done with the ark. I guess perception is sometimes reality. LOL

    Sometimes the most powerful leaders are those that you did not realize were actually leading. If you think about it; who would actually think of Indiana Jones as a leader anyway…he was more of the rebel.

  8. Chris Pritchett says:

    Appreciated your positive review of Tourish since I didn’t read the book and most of the other reviews are negative. Narcissism and empathy are opposites because narcissism is self-focus and empathy is like compassion for others. More narcissism = less empathy and vice versa.

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