Dr. JR Woodward set out to write a book that “would offer theological immunity to the disease of domineering leadership in the church.”  In The Scandal of Leadership, Woodward dives into the heart of failures and scandals among male church leaders who become corrupted by the power they wield. In this academic and theological work, Woodward diagnoses the problem of domineering church leadership as resulting from 1) misshaped desires 2) imitating humans and the world rather than Christ and 3) the subversive work of the Powers (Satan and the principalities/systems of evil and sin in the world). Woodward then offers a remedy that involves dying to self and imitating the life and love of Jesus.
What stood out to me in reading this book were the commonalities to our study of leadership derailment during the Oxford advance. My observations are discussed below.
Factors in Derailment and Domination
The focus of the DGLP Oxford Advance in fall of 2023 was on the topic of leadership derailment. Derailment is anything that takes a leader off a successful course and causes them to fail in their leadership duties in some way. A few examples are burnout, moral failure, and abuse of power (or domination to use Woodward’s term). When I reviewed the presentations from the Advance, I found that many of the factors that the Advance speakers ascribed to derailment were similar to Woodward’s hypothesis of domination.
Jo Nelson & The Toxic Triangle of Padilla
Jo Nelson, an occupational psychologist used The Toxic Triangle of Padilla (shown below) to illuminate three factors that can lead to derailment: 1) Destructive Leaders 2) Susceptible Followers and 3) Conducive Environments. These correspond with Woodward’s domination diagnosis as follows. Destructive leaders takes into account the sinful (shadow side) nature of the leader, which relates to desire and imitation. Likewise, susceptible followers also relates to desire and imitation, but in those whom the leader leads. And finally, conducive environments relates to the organizational structure and mission of the church that Woodward addresses toward the end of his book. Because domineering is one form of leadership derailment, sucessfully avoiding it must include addressing all three of the areas in the toxic triangle.
Simon Walker and the Forces of Power
In both his Advance presentation and his book Leading with Nothing to Lose, Simon Walker focuses on the various forces of power that influence leadership. These relate to Woodward’s discussion of power, but take it to more nuanced and practical levels as Walker introduces front stage vs. back stage force, strong and weak force, and expanding and consolidating force. At the Advance, Walker broke the forces down even further into territorial, dynamic, passive, and responsive (see chart below).  Walker’s dive into the forces of power can help us better understand how leaders can succumb to domineering styles of leadership by the way they stay stuck in certain forces (territorial and dynamic) and do not access all of them (attentive and responsive) as Walker suggests a good leader must practice.
Will Foster and the Importance of Self Leadership
The ability to be self-aware and learn from one’s mistakes are key components of avoiding the pitfalls of both derailment and a domineering leadership style, which relate to Woodward’s discussion of desire and imitation. Self leadership was the focus of a portion of Will Foster’s presentation at the Oxford Advance. Foster emphasized the necessity of soliciting feedback and being self-aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses as key factors of healthy leaders. I suspect that most domineering leaders did not have healthy models to imitate in this regard.
While Woodward approached the problem of domineering leaders in the church from a theological perspective, the speakers from the DGLP Advance approached derailment (which includes domination) from a more psychological and practical perspective. It’s interesting (and helpful) that there was so much overlap between the different approaches. Thankfully, I do not currently struggle with a domination problem, nor do I work with a domineering leader. However, it is good to have this information (and various ways to address the issue) if and when that does occur.
 J. R. Woodward, David Fitch, and Amos Yong, The Scandal of Leadership: Unmasking the Powers of Domination in the Church (100 Movements Publishing, 2023).
 Woodward, Fitch, and Yong.
 Nelson, Jo, “Leadership Derailment” (DLGP Oxford Advance, Oxford, September 23, 2023).
 Simon P. Walker, Leading with Nothing to Lose (Piquant Publishing, 2010).
 Walker, Simon, “Plenary Session” (Oxford, September 2023).
 Foster, Will, “Self Leadership” (Oxford, September 2023).