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

Two versions of transformation

Written by: on February 7, 2019

You can’t always tell much by a book’s cover. However, if you look at Dennis Tourish’s text, it is fairly obvious by the ominous picture, the play on popular culture’s phrase of “the Dark Side” and the subtitle, “a critical perspective” that there will be some serious critique of transformational leadership. In The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A critical Perspective, Tourish exposes the underlying authoritarian nature of transformational leadership that “empowers leaders while denying agency to subordinates.”[1] Offering several case studies in the second section and a final review of multiple methods of leadership including servant leadership theory, Tourish hopes his research will help others come to some conclusions on leadership and followership that may lead to healthy non-destructive future practice.

Tourish has found that transformational leadership is an outside-in process, where someone is attempting to change the followers by exterior motivations and ideals. Defining transformational leadership he says, “the leader is encouraged to change the goals of followers, subordinates or (in the case of cults) devoted members. Put in its most positive form, the new goals are assumed to be of a higher level in that, once transformed, they represent the ‘collective good or pooled interests of leaders and followers’[2]

In my ministry with other pastors and churches I have not deeply researched the theory of transformational leadership and its implications. Yet, in my attempt to help pastors and potential ministers to be mentored through internships, I created one of the 82,000 hits in Tourish’s google search of transformational leadership in 2012. If he would have dug deep enough my organization at the time would have come up, The Center for Transformational Leadership (or CTL). This title could have been the website for any number of the agencies Tourish mentions, while in fact the vision of the CTL was much different than that of his findings.

Since 2012, I have changed the name of the organization to simply, The Leadership Center, partly because The Center for Transformational Leadership is a mouthful and also because it’s hard to keep the words in order. But perhaps, unknown to me at the time, it was a smart move to change the title due to the misnomer of transformational leadership that seems to be the rage of those peddling it in the business world.

My philosophy of leadership conforms to a standard of transformation that emulates that of Jesus with his followers. Rather than being myself a person trying to transform others, I see it as each person is transformed by God’s work in them. Each time I connect with an intern and their site, we go through the following content, focused primarily on the change that happens in us and grows toward the outside in our leadership. You will notice the idea of transformation is throughout.

Leadership is formed from the inside out: beginning with the mind and heart and progressing to the will and strength. Leadership shaped by the image of Christ is personified as a willing and humble servant manifesting activities of influence with courage and authority from the Spirit of God.

Leaders are continual learners, seeking to know God fully and live in relation to Him, applying their gifts in alignment with their calling and personality. As a person grows in depth of knowing God, transformation of their soul and life occurs.

Christ centered leadership is reflected by the fruit of the Spirit being visible through continual character growth and fruitfulness in vocation. Evidence of aspects such as love and compassion for people and God’s creation, willingness to do the unglamorous or seemingly insignificant, faithfulness in commitments, and a joyful presence will demonstrate this leadership. The ongoing effects in the formation of character coupled with growth in leadership competence results in holistic transformational leadership that multiplies disciples, edifies the Church, fulfills the leader and ultimately glorifies God.[3]

This idea of transformational leadership is less based on authority and more based on identity and personhood of Christ who, while being authoritative is also non-authoritarian. The Dark Side does not pose any possibilities for leaders and followers to have healthy relationships, based on the seemingly fused nature of leaders and followers. To contrast this perspective of leadership is the differentiated leader from Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve.

Because of the important difference, and a need for healthy leadership perspective beyond only the dark and shallow side of leadership, I have included here Friedman’s perspective on old world verses new world orientations of leadership. Tourish’s research of many different groups tends to fall into a more old world methodology while my reading of Jesus and his vision of the church is a new world methodology.

“For both families and institutions, if not our nation itself, our chronically anxious civilization inhibits well-differentiated leaders from emerging and wears down those who do. Among our reigning “Old World” superstitions are the following notions:

  • ​​Leaders influence their followers by the model they establish for identification or emulation.
  • ​​The key to successful leadership is understanding the needs of one’s followers.
  • ​​Communication depends on one’s choice of words and how one articulates them. ​​
  • Consensus is best achieved by striving for consensus. ​​
  • Stress is due to hard work. ​​Hierarchy is about power.

Instead, the “New World” orientation to relationships will produce a view of leadership that says the following: ​​

  • A leader’s major effect on his or her followers has to do with the way his or her presence (emotional being) affects the emotional processes in the relationship system. ​​
  • A leader’s major job is to understand his or her self.
  • ​​Communication depends on emotional variables such as direction, distance, and anxiety. ​​
  • Stress is due to becoming responsible for the relationships of others. ​​
  • Hierarchy is a natural systems phenomenon rooted in the nature of protoplasm.” [4]


[1] Jaros, Stephen. “Book Review: The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective.” Management Learning 44, no. 5 (2013): 560-63. doi:10.1177/1350507613498146.

[2] Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective. Hove: Routledge, 2013, 21.

[3] Welstad, Trisha. The Leadership Center, Internship Manual 5.3, 2012.

[4] Friedman, Edwin H.. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 3808-3816). Church Publishing Inc. Kindle Edition.

About the Author

Trisha Welstad

Trisha is passionate about investing in leaders to see them become all God has created them to be. As an ordained Free Methodist elder, Trisha has served with churches in LA and Oregon, leading as a pastor of youth and spiritual formation, a church planter, and as a co-pastor of a church restart. Trisha currently serves as leadership development pastor at Northside Community Church in Newberg, OR. Over the last five years Trisha has directed the Leadership Center, partnering with George Fox and the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness churches. The Leadership Center is a network facilitating the development of new and current Wesleyan leaders, churches and disciples through internships, equipping, mentoring and scholarship. In collaboration with the Leadership Center, Trisha serves as the director of the Institute for Pastoral Thriving at Portland Seminary and with Theologia: George Fox Summer Theology Institute. She is also adjunct faculty at George Fox University. Trisha enjoys throwing parties, growing food, listening to the latest musical creations by Troy Welstad and laughing with her two children.

13 responses to “Two versions of transformation”

  1. M Webb says:

    I like your introduction, summation, and link to your CTL work from 2012, awesome! Amen to your picture of TL, I agree. It is all about the Christ in us transformation that makes the real difference. As I read your TL leadership process I did not see any of the authoritarian, cult, or omniscient characteristics that Tourish attributes to spirituality, authentic, and servant leadership models. He really did use the “old world” stereotypes and power myths when he wrote his book. Excellent analysis and counter to Tourish’s “mad world” approach.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      Thanks Mike. I am glad for your strong critique. While I agree with much of his analysis, I was disappointed with the lack of any options of leadership that were of value or could lead to possible solutions. It seems Tourish is disillusioned by leadership as a whole.

  2. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Trish,

    Thanks for focusing on the “inside out” part of leadership. I am sure that is why we are doing the good, but difficult (for me), part of our PLDP with Dr. Mary. To be honest, it isn’t my favorite part of leadership assessment, but also to be honest, it has been very beneficial.

    I also appreciated your focus on us as leaders being life long learners. Well said here, “As a person grows in depth of knowing God, transformation of their soul and life occurs.”


    • Trisha Welstad says:

      Jay, I think Mary’s part is for me a place where I have spent much time. You can probably tell by my content that the inside-out approach is my go to.

      What do you think of first when analyzing leader formation?

  3. Yes! Identity and personhood in Christ. You’re a leader I’d be proud to follow, friend.

    It’s still hard to convince even Christian leaders that leadership should be based on identity and not authority. How do envision this being lived out in, say, a congregation?

    • Trisha Welstad says:


      I think identity is the only way. Long term it shows the depth of followers and the disciples they make.

      I just watched a short interview with Rick Warren and it really seems that he has led, at least more recently with humility and honesty about his identity. He was talking about mental health and his own struggle. That is something that authority driven leaders are totally unwilling to have conversations about, especially from the pulpit. But, as we’ve seen with so many recent leadership failures in ministry, it makes all the difference.

  4. Dan Kreiss says:


    Excellent! Yes, I too believe in transformational leadership of the kind that Jesus demonstrated. Rather than seeking to lead transformation in others we walk alongside others who are opening their lives to the transformation God ordains in each of our lives. It is a communal journey rather than a hierarchical one.

    Perhaps it was good that you changed the name of your organization bearing in mind that Tourish feels TL is misguided. I don’t think he would feel the same about the internal transformation caused by God in the life of the humble servant leader, emulating the life of Jesus.

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      Dan, I am SO GLAD I changed the name. Ironically, with the more bland name, people don’t forget it and it’s distinguished me from other organizations.

      I would have liked to see Tourish’s analysis of leadership with regard to the church in one of his chapters…hopefully it would not have been the same, although I have definitely seen what he’s talking about in Christendom as well.

  5. Chris Pritchett says:

    This was helpful to hold up next to Friedman. Most of my training has been from the world of Friedman and Heifetz, so I lean in that direction regarding what I trust in various leadership theories. I hope you have found Friedman helpful for the folks you serve. Do you think Tourish will be useful for your work?

    • Trisha Welstad says:

      Chris, I think Tourish is a good critique to help me (and others) to know if we are doing real transformational work or are really just trying to get others to adapt to our thing.

  6. Kyle Chalko says:

    Great job Trish. I like the model you take your interns through! I think you are right on to use Friedman’s book to inform us on discussing this book.

  7. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hey Trisha,
    Thanks for this post! I had on my theological reading glasses as I read what you wrote and it was so interesting to see how your background in the “holiness tradition” shows up in the way you think about leadership formation. It’s really good! This is something that folks in the Reformed often lack, and that pastors who are some years in (like me!) are trying to recover/develop as we go. Thanks for your work supporting leaders!

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