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

Rethinking Transformational Leadership

Written by: on February 7, 2019

Dennis Tourish in his work, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective, provides a sharp rebuke against the effectiveness of transformational leadership. Villiers in his review states, “Tourish parallels transformational leadership with cults; and argues that the noticeable overlaps should caution against the potential of moving organizations further along the dysfunctional cult continuum than is desirable.[1] Tourish in his own words also makes clear what the book is about,

“This is a book about charismatic visionaries whose charisma is an illusion planted in the minds of their followers and whose vision is feeble, illusory or inappropriate, despite its appeal to many. It is a book about the limits on the ability of leaders to do good and the tendency of many to put their own self-interest above the collective good of their followers”.[2]

Any book that seeks to tackle the “dark side” of anything will inherently lead to a dark tone itself, and this book is no different. In saying that, all leaders should be aware of the potential to use power and authority negatively if such leaders genuinely desire the best for the organization and people they have the privilege to lead.

As this book was written after the economic disasters in the mid-2000’s[3], it seems fitting that the dark side of transformational leadership needed to be addressed. Much of the literary at the time only praised this form of leadership while contrasting it against transactional leadership.[4] One of the main characteristics of transformation leadership that Tourish criticizes is Charismatic leadership. Tourish points at that,

In particular, Maccoby (2000) suggests that many charismatic leaders are narcissists – that is, people with an inordinately well-developed self-image, in which they take great pride and on which they reflect frequently. They are also likely to have a strong need for power, high self-confidence and strong convictions (De Vries et al . 1999). Rather than flexibly responding to feedback, the narcissistic but charismatic visionary leader is inclined to perceive reality through the distorting prism of his or her vision”.[5]

As a leader in the stream of faith that leans heavily into this exact charismatic leader model, it brought clarity to many issues I have seen over and over in again in our portion of the Church. The question then becomes, how do we combat this narcissistic inclination? I believe one way is understanding leadership as a relationship and practicing deep self-awareness and other-awareness.

Walter Wright, in his book Relational Leadership, writes, “Leadership is a relationship between a leader and a follower-ideally, a relationship of shared vision, shared responsibility, and shared leadership.”[6] In this model of leadership, the leader is just as dependent on the follower because without “followers” there is no leader. While labels are hard to dismiss altogether, this model lifts the importance of both parties involved in leadership, not just one. While Transformational leadership seeks to take identity away, Relational leadership must always establish identity because, “In a relationship of influence everyone has some influence, and the exercise of leadership is determined by the choice to follow.[7] Here is where emotional intelligence or the practice of deep self-awareness and other-awareness is helpful. 

Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we, perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.[8] Recent research has indicated that emotional intelligence is twice as important than the purpose, vision, mission, and organization in predicting productivity and accomplishment.[9] Again, as one who is surrounded by “charismatic” leaders, the anecdote maybe to practice deep self-awareness and other-awareness for personal development and organizational effectiveness. If leaders want to see a transformation in persons or organization, the aim should not be to take away what is unique about someone or something but to understand the value the uniqueness brings to the table.






*Did anyone else keep seeing the Dark Knight as you read this book. 🙂


[1]” Rouxelle de Villiers, Book essay on “The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective,” (Journal of Business Research, Volume 67, Issue 12, 2014), Pages 2512-2514, ISSN 0148-2963, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2014.01.006.

[2] Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective, Routledge, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/georgefox/detail.action?docID=1154334. 17.

[3] Villiers, Book essay on “The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective,” 2512.

[4]  Tourish, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective, 21.

[5]  Tourish, The Dark Side of Transformational leadership: A Critical Perspective, 25.

[6]  Wright Jr. Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Influence and Service (Kindle Locations 117-118). Kindle Edition

[7]” Wright Jr. Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Influence and Service (Kindle Locations 605-606). Kindle Edition.

[8]MHS training manual. Find out more about MHS here, https://tap.mhs.com/Home

[9]  Walter C. Wright Jr. Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Influence and Service (Kindle Locations 447-448). Kindle Edition. Also see, Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence (New York: Bantam Books, 1998), 320.

About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

12 responses to “Rethinking Transformational Leadership”

  1. Rhonda Davis says:

    Thanks for your post, Mario. Like you, I have seen charismatic leaders who began with the right motive, but over time, succumbed to the over-indulgence of self and have lost their ability to see themselves or others appropriately. In your context, have you found positive ways to promote self-awareness and other-awareness?

  2. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Thank you Mario. After reading many blog posts for this week I think that each leader needs their own seasonal PDLP and at least one other person to hold them accountable to that no matter where they are in their career. Thank you!

  3. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Mario, Thanks so much for your post and your perspective from being in the stream of charismatic leaders. I am guessing you mean charismatic in the vein of charismatic gifts or perhaps charismatic cultural style. Having grown up in ministry as a Pentecostal preacher and now a Third Wave Charismatic pastor, I have often reflected upon the differentiation of charismatic gifts and charismatic culture. My own observations and experiences echoed what John Wimber (often recognized as the founder of the Vineyard movement) witnessed as a charismatic leader and even church consultant for Fuller Seminary. Charismatic culture systemically places too much focus and attention on the man or woman of power rather than the Lord of the Kingdom. Power and authority tend to be extremely hierarchical and limited to a select, anointed few. This always has been a recipe for disaster (again, not personally but systemically). John Wimber recognized this and developed the value of “everyone gets to play”, that is, every believer (with some obvious training) can pray for the sick, pray for deliverance, or pray for anyone about anything (i.e., do the power evangelism of Jesus). This applies whether on the platform or out in the streets. Additionally, everyone needs someone in their life that, when needed, can call what I am doing or thinking (perhaps in private), “B*******!” Not to be crude or graphic, but we all need someone like the little boy from the Emperor’s new clothes, to be honest, and courageous enough to tell us we are actually naked. Every leader that started out well and went off the rails, either did not value having someone like that in their life or did not listen to the Holy Spirit in their wise, counsel. Thanks again, Mario, I appreciate you as a leader in our stream of the church.

    • Mario Hood says:

      Ha! I agree 100% to this whole comment. For reasons we all know, pastors can be the “fakest” people when it comes to dealing with their own issues and we need to have someone(s) that we can be real with because we are people as well.

  4. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Mario – thank you for this. I forget we have our appreciation of the EQi in common. I heard recently that ‘self-awareness is our only defense against self-deception’. I think there is a lot of merit in that. Part of my experience, however, is that this is exactly what narcissism makes impossible. There must be some degree of humility and openness for one to grow. I’d like to think narcissism is more rare and just a need for more self-awareness is much more common. Do you agree?

  5. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Thanks, Mario. I was just told about research recently released on narcissism stating that over 70% were in the pastoral profession. I will get that to us to confirm. If that’s true, then we must stop the leadership emphasis and look at the core issues of personal health or this will keep being perpetuated. I posted about adult development and all of this ties together. I think it goes back to a discipleship issue and you are doing important research to that end.

    • Tammy Dunahoo says:

      Mario, the study is “Frequency of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Pastors: a Preliminary Study,” R. Glenn Ball, D.Min, Darrell Puls. DRS., A Paper Presented to the American Association of Christian Counselors, Nashville, TN, September 26, 2015.

      It was referenced in Dr. James Wilder’s book, “The Pandora Problem.”

    • Mario Hood says:

      Yes I agree. We don’t do a great job in church leadership of providing space to work out issues. So much pressure is put on being “on” or perfect that we buy into that framework and never find a way out.

    • Rhonda Davis says:

      Wow…70%?! It would be wonderful to see a greater emphasis on the personal development of pastoral leaders. It seems that at some point, we opted out of pastoral development, and into organizational development. Could it be that in our quest to create more efficient organizations, we lost the ability to see the person in front of us…especially the one in the mirror?

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