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

Leadership: Listen to the Protestors

Written by: on February 7, 2019

The church is one of the only realms of leadership that enables men and women to retain positions of authoritarian leadership without any regard to the leader’s spiritual health, relevancy or team building capabilities. Therefore, the church has a tendency to solely rely on the pastor’s vision and, consequently, revile the pastor’s downfall. In a sense, the North American preference towards totalitarian leadership within the protestant church has created a standard of perfection that is unattainable, a pulpit that is unapproachable and a people who are unreachable. According to a recent article in Church Leaders:

…anxiety and depression in the pulpit are “markedly higher” in the last five years, said Smoot. “The current economic crisis has caused many of our pastors to go into depression.” Besides the recession’s strain on church budgets, depressed pastors increasingly report frustration over their congregations’ resistance to cultural change.[1]

Instead of addressing the root problem of leadership theory, pastors and leaders are condemned for their lack of ‘transformational leadership’ and subsequently, fall deeper into a never-ending tailspin of leading ministries with a painted façade and a perfected smile. This type of power-driven leadership expectation also leads one to operate from the standpoint of generalized assumption and individual excuse. “Power, it seems, breeds a sense of entitlement and an inclination to hold others to standards of behavior that we cannot live up to ourselves.”[2] Hence, the pressure of authoritarian governance forces pastors and leaders to manage from a place of denial and function from a place of detachment.

Tourish is not advocating for socialistic leadership, but he challenges his readers to question themselves rather than place the blame on the otherness of their team. The author explains that “It is certainly vital that we deconstruct leadership, that we ask critical questions of its practice and that we open up our research to different voices and interests. But it is also important, I think, that we attempt to offer solutions. If the world cannot be made perfect, then perhaps it can at least be made better.”[3] Tourish does seek to find a resolution and reveals the humanity within management structures; however, he also peels back the layers of poor leadership theory and encourages readers to embrace the voices that differ with their presumptions.

This is why it is imperative for pastors and leaders to question their execution and their leadership ethics. If one takes on the mindset of conviction equaling conformity, then one’s ministry is simply reflecting the heart of the leader and not the needs of the congregants. Tourish reveals that:

There is abundant evidence that the penalizing of dissent has become an organizational norm, with a consequent increase in ingratiating behaviors by employees (principally, overt, enthusiastic and excessive agreement with the ideas propounded by leaders and managers) used as a means of both surviving and trying to acquire influence of powerful others.[4]

For many, dissent is viewed as a dissection from the church because it forces pastors and leaders to question their direction. This is why countless people are leaving the doors of the sanctuary. If their voice is silenced and their questions are viewed as steeped in disloyalty, then their deemed as a threat to the very fabric of one’s authoritarian vision and considered a barrier to one’s God-giving calling. However, according to Tourish, one must be leery of using one’s charisma and ‘calling’ as a way to separate the followers from the nonconformists. He reveals that vision without opposition is not persuasive, but steeped in poor leadership theory.

Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams concur with Tourish in their book, Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results. They suggest that “The level and consistency of collective effectiveness of the leadership system makes the difference between organizations that perform optimally and those that do not.”[5] Tourish builds on their perception of leadership and suggests embracing dissension, understanding differences and creating an organization that functions in dialogue.  He reveals, “The dialogic organization will always be involved in discussion about strategic direction, including after decisions have been reached. Critical feedback, despite its frustrations, consistently offers fresh opportunities for evaluation.”[6] Hence, if leadership is based upon the conformity of members, then the organization is more concerned with protecting the ego of the individual, instead of protecting the health of the organization.

Dennis Tourish, author of The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective, draws us into a parallel reality of healthy leadership and then gives us the tools to change the trajectory of our journey. He currently serves as the professor of Leadership and Organization Studies and director of Research of the School of Management at the Royal Holloway University of London.[7] However, although his background is steeped in academic dissection, he presents a dialogue that envelopes us with reason and challenges us with application – He challenges us as pastors and leaders to lean into the dissension and take our cue from the those with picket signs.



[1]Toni Ridgaway, “Silent Suffering: Pastors and Depression,” https://churchleaders.com, September 11, 2010, https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/144651-silent-suffering-pastors-and-depression.html.

[2]Dennis Tourish, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective (New York: Routledge, 2013), 9.

[3]Ibid., 14.

[4]Ibid., 49.

[5]Robert J. Anderson and W A. Adams, Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2016), 20.

[6]Dennis Tourish, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective (New York: Routledge, 2013), 95.

[7]“Royal Holloway, University of London: Professor Dennis Tourish,” royalholloway.ac.uk, accessed February 7, 2019, https://pure.royalholloway.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/dennis-tourish(90abca1f-14e2-446c-a414-a3c689392d90).html.



About the Author

Colleen Batchelder

I speak at conferences, churches, companies and colleges on intergenerational communication, marketing, branding your vision and living authentically in a ‘filtered’ world. My talks are customized to venue needs and audience interests. My passion is to speak with organizations and bridge the intergenerational gap. I consult with companies, individuals, churches and nonprofit organizations and help them create teams that function from a place of communication that bridges the generational gap. I’m also the Founder and President of LOUD Summit – a young adult organization that presents workshops, seminars and summits that encourage, empower and equip millennials to live out their destiny and walk in their purpose. When I’m not studying for my DMin in Leadership and Global Perspectives at Portland Seminary, you can find me enjoying a nice Chai Latte, exploring NYC or traveling to a new and exotic destination.

9 responses to “Leadership: Listen to the Protestors”

  1. Colleen,

    The concept of “penalizing dissent” is really quite common, I believe, in our churches and parachurch organizations. We feel threatened by divergent opinions and alternative perspectives. As a result, we freeze people out or actively lobby for their removal.

    How do you think we could discover ways to encourage people to share opinions and collectively discover a better consensus-based pathway forward?

    • Thanks, Mark!

      I’ve seen many organizations fail to progress because they lack people who are willing, to be honest with those at the top. This type of leadership keeps organizations stagnant because it’s only being directed by one individual. When you don’t have opposition, then you create organizations in your image, instead of organizations that reflect the needs of many.

      I’ve learned this within LOUD Summit. I’m not very keen on feeling-oriented workshops. I run like the wind when invited to Spiritual Formation-driven events. However, when I listened to opposing voices within my organization, I realized that they wanted something that would connect with their heart and soul more than their mind. They needed a workshop that would enable them to be introspective before being outward-focused. We held a purpose workshop that engaged our audience’s need to feel. Many were highly moved by the exercise and ended up in tears towards the end of the workshop. I was blessed by their engagement even if I wasn’t the one being engaged.

      Diversity needs to be purposeful. One of the best ways to expose ourselves to the opposition is to make it clear to our boards, elders, and team that we welcome conflict. I would highly recommend reading the book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, by Patrick Lencioni. (https://www.amazon.com/Advantage-Organizational-Everything-Business-Lencioni-ebook/dp/B006ORWT3Y/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Advantage&qid=1549830211&s=digital-text&sr=1-1)

      It’s brilliant! He paves the way for healthy communication that embraces the dissenting voice that will build strong teams.

  2. M Webb says:

    You too, like Mark, were very kind in your assessment of Tourish. I understand your thought process and strongly agree that he needed to “offer solutions.” He has written 8 books on leadership and this is his best? I did not buy the book but read more than I needed in the Ebook version seeking something redeeming but found little to inspire me. He has the heart of a Grinch for sure when it comes to his faith in humankind and a better future for leadership.
    I would make you the LGP8 PIO if we needed to make a public release on this book.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Thank you for that great compliment, Mike!

      I’m amazed at how many did not like the book. So far, it’s one of my favorites. I could see how Tourish’s text could lead to anarchy within leadership structures if taken to the extreme. However, I found his text highly relevant within my sphere of ministry and my view of health within the church.

      Sadly, churches and ministries that rely on the lead person’s charisma and visionary skills place an awful lot of pressure on their performance. Without a proper balance of opposition, those in a high level of leadership are given full reign of the organization and given full blame for everything that occurs in the organization. The problem with transformational leadership is that it sets people up to fail. When everything rides on the performance of one person, then it leads them to be an island without accountability or support.

      What were some of his main points where you differed?

  3. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Colleen,

    Do you think this book on Leadership, from mainly a business perspective, successfully carries over into the church world? I have been struggling to make the full connection, though I understood and appreciated your thought on penalizing dissent. Well shared!

    I do not feel churches are businesses, although people told me often we need to run church more like a business. Now that I think about it, people who usually said that were business people…


    • Thanks for the great question, Jay!

      No. I think this book is highly valuable and relevant to the church. If you look at all the pastors who have had affairs, been accused of embezzlement or dismissed from the church because of threating behavior, you’ll find that all of them led from a place of transformational leadership.

      Recently, another pastor was in the headlines for having an ongoing affair. I won’t mention names, but I will say that I know exactly what led him to that decision. His ministry became about numbers, which placed all the responsibly on him. If the numbers dropped, then he doubted himself and tapped into his charisma and personality to retain followers. Pretty soon, his vision was bringing back up his numbers, but his marriage was failing, his health was deteriorating, and life was spinning out of control. Sadly, this person is still in ministry. He’s still preaching each Sunday and he’s still not receiving healthy counsel. All because of the church that he pastors is more concerned with his portrayal of transformational leadership than organizational health. Without opposition, chaos ensues.

      The problem with transformational leadership is that it removes those in high levels of leadership from any opposition, thus, removing them from accountability. Proverbs 27:17 says it best, “As Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” When we remove ourselves from dissension and lead from our own vision, then our organizations start to support our unhealthy decisions, instead of creating check and balances.

  4. Dan Kreiss says:


    Great post as usual. The area of transformational leadership is just as challenging for pastors as it is in the corporate realm. In many ways it may be more difficult as it is incredibly difficult leading a group of volunteers (who often pay the salary of those that are leading them). As the church has become more enamored with business models the hierarchical approach to leadership has become more entrenched, even with the miscues evident throughout the corporate world. I believe that diversity in leadership, a move away from only white, male leadership is an important step in transforming the church and the type of leadership that is carried out. If Meyer’s culture map is to be believed with diversity comes variety, just what the church needs.

    • Thanks so much, Dan!

      Exactly! Meyer presented the various forms of leadership held by varied cultures; however, Tourish presented one form of leadership theory that applied to all. Diversity is key. One of the main reasons that I stated LOUD Summit was to create a place where God’s voice could be seen through various skin tones, genders, political parties, and denominations. For years, we’ve upheld a system of authoritarianism within the Christian structure, because we’ve claimed that God’s personal vision for one leader is greater than His purpose for the organization. As soon as we let one leader make ALL the decisions, we’ve become enamored with the transcendence of the leader instead of the transcendence of God.

  5. Great post Colleen! I loved the quote you highlighted…“The level and consistency of collective effectiveness of the leadership system makes the difference between organizations that perform optimally and those that do not.” I feel like collective leadership is really the foundation of effectiveness especially when men and women can collectively lead together.

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