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

Dark Side of Leadership…

Written by: on February 7, 2019

I have been called Pope Jason, in jest, but probably with a little bit of sarcasm. I had told a youth worker, who had decided he wanted to date one of the youth, (he was 19 she was a senior and 17) that he could no longer serve as the drummer in the youth led praise band. They both stopped coming to church and told everyone I had kicked them out of the church. There were some on the staff who had heard about it and started calling me Pope Jason The Excommunicator, as if I had that power. While reading  Dennis Tourish’s book The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A critical perspective it brought back the memories of this time, and they were painful. The last thing I have ever wanted to do as a pastor is to push someone out of the church. While our reading this week centered on corporate leadership and how the authoritarian model of leadership has led to leaders who see themselves as “saints, commanders, architects (redesigning society, pedagogues (teaching appropriate behaviors) and physicians (healing stricken organizations). Such metaphors are widely employed by leaders themselves, determined to present themselves as indispensable for human prosperity.” [1], I cannot help but be drawn to the comparison to leadership within the church. 

Historically speaking Christian leaders who grew to have too much power have been corrupted by this power. While it would be easy to bash on one denomination or another, suffice it to be said this has been spread out through all denominations. For the sake of argument, I will give one example from my own denomination, Southern Baptist (the name will be left off). The president of the seminary I graduated from came in my second year attending this school. He came in with fanfare of a man who could “set things right”. His first chapel he said this, if you do not leave this place with at least 1500 books in your library you have failed your self, (not an exact quote because it was over 12 years ago and I cannot not remember the exact words). The next week, he brought in a company that sold online sermon helps that if you bought it would also come with 1500 books online. All for only $700, because what poor seminary student can’t afford $700. I saw to many buy into this. The next decree from “dear leader” was that women who worked for the seminary had to wear dresses not pants, cause yeah its 1950. He had absolute power granted to him by the Southern Baptist Convention because he had lead the conservative turn around of the SBC in the late 70’s early 80’s. He had been the president of another SBC seminary and had made the same changes. Then two years ago his past caught up with him. While he was a pastor he had “counseled” a woman in his congregation whose husband was beating her to stay with him and not get a divorce even though he was beating her. He also, while at another seminary, placed blame on a student who was raped by one of her other classmates, and told her not to press charges, and then when she did kicked her out of the school. He had such power within the denomination that he got away with these and many more egregious acts because of his authority. Fortunately, the recent #metoo movement outed his and the board of trustees at the seminary finally got backbones and did the right thing, although only through public outcry. 

This kind of abuse pushes away people from God, and it should not be tolerated. Just as the leaders at Enron who were allowed to get away with so much corrupt business practices for so long and bring a company to its knees. The charismatic leader can talk many into doing what their heart tells them is wrong.  It is not just in business or the church that these abuses happen, the worst abuses come in the name of leadership of a whole country. In Leadership as Idolatry: The Case of Stalinism and Beyond Karl Inge Tangen writes about the deification of Stalin by his own people, “A young girl writes ‘They said there was no God, and I made my God of Stalin. It’s funny but let me tell you. If I was sick or something hurt me, then I thought it would go away because Stalin knew. He was just like a God.'” [2] It was not just those who were ruled but even those who were persecuted by Stalin that saw him as a god like figure, “Peter Kenez concluded that even those who had been victims of Stalin’s horrific dictatorship were weeping and that the country as a whole “was near mass hysteria”[3] In saying this I was drawn to the chapter on the Jamestown and Heaven’s Gate tragedies. Both were led by charismatic leaders. Jones started off as a “Christian” who then devolved into considering himself god all the while espousing communism as the way. The other, Marshall Applewhite espoused New Age leanings. The fact was they took those who were either spiritually seeking or just plain hurt, promised them something greater for their adherents. The way these two manipulated what to make the community greater than the self, the promises of the society being better because of them, or they were chosen to ascend to a higher plain because society was wrecked was almost to easy for these men to do. It speaks to the needs of the church to reach out to the broken and the hurting and show them that there is a God, and he loves them dearly. 

I truly do not know which is better in a leader. Authoritarian leaders get things done, egalitarian leaders care of their people creates better people. All I know is they both exist and both do good and bad things, to put all of them into one bag would be dangerous. By the way, from my story at the beginning, the relationship with both was mended, both are still dear to me and I have been part of their lives.


Have a great day!


[1] Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective. Hove: Routledge, 2013. 4.

[2] Tangen, Karl I. “Leadership as Idolatry. The Case of Stalinism and Beyond.” Scandinavian Journal of Leadership and Theology4 (2017). 2017. Accessed February 02, 2019.

[3] Ibid.

About the Author

Jason Turbeville

A pastor, husband and father who loves to be around others. These are the things that describe me. I was a youth minister for 15 years but God changed the calling on my life. I love to travel and see where God takes me in my life.

9 responses to “Dark Side of Leadership…”

  1. Hi Jason,

    Thanks for a great post! Very provocative…

    When I read your post, I wondered if your seminary president got a kick back for sales of the sermon helps/library? It seems odd he would urge students to have a library of 1500 books one week then it’s available next week… there’s lots of little schemes out there.

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      I never did like him, I was working in the software industry when he came to the seminary and we had a division that also did office furniture. When he came in he insisted a library be built onto the president’s house to house all his books, at a cost of 5.6 million US. I knew because I was friends with the guy in our company that bid it out. He just was a rotten person in my opinion.


  2. M Webb says:

    Thanks for your review and transparent examples as a Pope! Have any Popes had beards in recent past? I did not like the book and think it did little to improve leadership and a lot to beat up all leaders everywhere. Of course, we have bad leaders just like we have bad people, they all fall prey to one thing, can they resist the evil influences of Satan or not? A leader’s struggle to resist evil should not determine if Transformational, Situational, Authentic, or Servant style leadership (to name a brief few) should all be thrown under the bus as bad forms of governance.
    We should measure ourselves by the standards set forth by Scripture. We have a God in us through the person of the Holy Spirit who can help, inspire, convict, and change us into the image of Christ. Tourish has nothing good to say about Christ and therefore I have little to say about him.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      I can always count on you to ground everything in the veil of Christ. I agree that this book is pretty much a throw away spiritually but I did find some truths in it in how to avoid being a leadership failure. Was there anything in this book you will be able to use?


  3. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jason!

    I am heartbroken to hear of your painful experience. I am also humbled to hear of your last statements of healing and reconciliation. Thank you for sharing both sides of the story.

    I struggled to connect Tourish’s mainly business discussions, with our church work today, but I can sure see how us Christian leaders have a dark side, as we discussed earlier in McIntosh’s “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership”…



  4. Jason Turbeville says:

    I found much to compare to our former reading as well. Was there one thing you said, yeah I can use that?


  5. Dan Kreiss says:


    As you demonstrate in your post this week and that was clearly written by Tourish, leadership is tough. It’s not only tough because difficult decisions have to be made that are not always popular. It is also difficult because of the changes that can occur in the psyche of the individual leader. I don’t think that people like Stalin, Hitler or the seminary president were born bad people I think that part of the issue was leadership had gone to their heads and those immediately under their leadership were too busy affirming their ‘wisdom’ to call out error when it occurred. I think the longer they remained unchecked the more inflated their self-view became and narcissism set in. I don’t think you have to be a world leader or seminary president for this to occur. You and I have that same capacity and need to encourage those around us to be willing to challenge our decisions when they feel it justified. If we are willing to recognize our own tendencies we might avert the catastrophes described in the text and your examples. Keep up the good work brother.

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      You hit the nail on the head, we all have the ability to walk into our dark sides, the idea of me being able to turn into what I hate is what I use to keep myself centered. I was full of myself for quite sometime and God used that to teach me a hard lesson, and I am grateful for that. It breaks my heart when I seen people called by God fall into their own desires. Thanks for your comment brother.


  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Jason, just for the point of adding to this discussion: in regard to your story of the president brought in…would you say the problem with leadership was due to that president, or those who put him there? I fear that too often we blame only the individual that is leading, and far too often fail to hold those that put them there, accountable.

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