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

Use the Force to Examine Thy Self

Written by: on February 28, 2018

So many statements in Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures by Gary McIntosh resonated with me and my work. The author’s definition of the Dark Side is what keeps me in business as a therapist. McIntosh defines the Dark Side as “the inner urges, compulsions, and dysfunctions of our personality that often go unexamined or remain unknown to us until we experience an emotional explosion.”[1] Most people I meet with have many things going on inside of them that they are unaware of until the emotional explosion comes and they schedule an appointment, usually in a desperate panic. This process of emotions and thoughts being bottled up for weeks, months, and often years is so normal to people, they are rarely aware of the volcano brewing inside of them. This is why it is vital to be self-aware in order to be an effective leader. As the Jesuits say, “If all leadership is first self-leadership that springs from personal beliefs and attitudes, then each person must first decide what personal leadership legacy he or she wants to leave behind.”[2] Their concept of self-leadership is brilliant, and something many leaders today are lacking because they are leaving what is going on inside unexamined.


We have heard it said that our greatest strength is often our greatest weakness. Well, it appears that McIntosh agrees when he says, “In almost every case the factors that eventually undermine us are shadows of the ones that contribute to our success.”[3] I have seen this time and time again with various successful leaders, their strength of charismatic leadership becomes the aspect that draws unhealthy admirers and tempts them to fall. Because of this lack of self-awareness, leaders tend to get blindsided by the dark side of the aspects of their personality or strengths that lead to their success. The other thing I notice is people rarely trust another person to be in a trusting accountability type relationship with, especially successful leaders. They are not submitting themselves to another person to allow them to “proofread” their life on a regular basis. Many times these leaders struggle to find someone to play this role for fear of being exposed to the organization they are leading. This keeps them stuffing their pain and emotions, only to set themselves up for a potential emotional or moral meltdown.


Another aspect of the Dark Side that often gets missed is the fact that “leaders that we perceive to be exceptionally confident and in command are often compensating for a deeply rooted sense of inferiority and insecurity.”[4] This is the classic explanation of why bullies tear people down, because they feel inferior and insecure and want to pull others down to their level. This type of overcompensation is very common among leaders, but all people see is the confident persona they want you to see. This deep sense of insecurity is often at the core of the pain they are holding inside and not adequately dealing with. I couldn’t agree more with the author when he says, “When we refuse to process in healthy ways feelings of insecurity, unhealthy codependence issues, feelings of personal shame, deeply sublimated anger or fear, or some combination of these or other issues, they will wreak havoc in our lives and leadership and eventually endanger ourselves and others.”[5] In the book he highlights the astronaut, Lisa Nowak, as an example of what can happen if we don’t process the uncomfortable feelings inside. Sadly, I have had countless people sitting on my couch recounting the devastatingly destructive road they went down in life as a result of unresolved, unaware pain, insecurity and low self-worth. Most were completely unaware of the dangerous volcano bubbling below the surface for years before whatever unhealthy incident occurred.


Another common reason for leadership failure is pride. “Simply put, the first human leadership failure was the result of unrestrained pride and selfishness with a healthy dose of self – deception.”[6] We have been warned of this long before, thanks to the Good Book that says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.”[7] How many times do we need to watch this kind of destruction follow the prideful rise of a successful leader. I’m sure they don’t set out on a mission to be prideful, but power, fame, and money do strange things to people. We tend to forget Who gave us the gifts and talents to be in that position, and Who opened the door and gave us favor for us to have success. We see this in Hollywood over and over again. Famous people who seem to have it all and take pride in this lofty position in society, only to be miserable inside and unhappy with their life. This is mostly because they have not figured out the secret to a happy life is actually not in what you have or do, but in who you are (that’s why we are called human “beings” and not human “doings”). Once again I agree with McIntosh when he says, “Leaders who are aware of their dark side and are willing to deal openly and honestly with it before God are empowered for greater effectiveness.”[8] The Jesuits were on to something when they emphasized the need for leaders to have self-awareness and a willingness to look inward and process the feelings of insecurity, pain, pride, etc. in order to be the leader God has called them to be. May I and those in my awesome cohort have the courage to do this well!



            [1] Gary L. McIntosh, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures, (Baker Publishing Group) Kindle Edition, Locations 314-315.

            [2] Chris Lowney, Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World, (Kindle Locations 189-190).

            [3] Gary L. McIntosh, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures, (Baker Publishing Group) Kindle Edition, Locations 318-319.

            [4] Ibid., 481-482.

            [5] Ibid., 486-488.

            [6] Ibid., 730-731.

            [7] Proverbs 16:18-19 (NLT)

            [8] Gary L. McIntosh, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures, (Baker Publishing Group) Kindle Edition, Locations 845-846.

About the Author

Jake Dean-Hill

Currently a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice. Ordained minister with 10 years of prior full-time church ministry experience and currently volunteering with a local church plant. Also working with companies as a Corporate Leadership Coach.

7 responses to “Use the Force to Examine Thy Self”

  1. M Webb says:

    Thanks for your counselor-therapist review on the dark-side of people, and leaders. While I agree we must be good stewards of how we lead and take accountability for our actions, we must still be cognizant that we are being influenced by the evil, disruptive, and destructive forces of Satan.
    I like the “co-create” solutions model between the Christian counselee and Holy Spirit.

    Thanks for all you do and contribute to LGP8.

    Stand firm,

    M. Webb

  2. Jean Ollis says:

    Way to rock Darth Vader – even on the toilet? lol!
    You get to intimately connect with people’s failures on a daily basis. There’s something very raw and real about your work. Would you agree that as therapists we are fortunate to see such destruction and learn from it? If anything, we learn failure can happen at anytime to anyone…at least that’s my experience. I appreciate your balance of faith and therapy – it’s important to staying self-aware and keeping codependency of the helping profession in check. Thanks for your great thoughts!

  3. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? Seriously?! No, that’s what it is: Vader on the toilet!

    Jake, I appreciated your post, particularly the encouragement to spiritual leaders to pursue a regular habit of checking in with a therapist (and/or, I would add, spiritual director). Ministry leaders tend to be isolated and not have accurate feedback loops. This is also true of the wealthy and is a theme I’m exploring in my dissertation.

  4. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jake,

    You got me with, “We have heard it said that our greatest strength is often our greatest weakness.” So true! That really resonated with me. Your writing always hits the intended target.

    By the way, did your wife’s Cohort read the same books as ours? Must be really interesting to talk about this together if you did…

  5. Dan Kreiss says:


    Your connection between this weeks text and the practice of the Jesuits is particularly meaningful to me. The self-awareness of anyone in leadership is vital to sustainability and longevity. Your own expertise in regard to helping others drill down into their core selves to ascertain what is occurring has obviously helped a multitude of people begin to practice the habits of the Jesuits. I am thankful that there are people like you who not only have a thorough understanding of psychological constructs but also are alert to the spiritual dimension and recognize all the facets that make up the whole person in Christ.

  6. Jason Turbeville says:

    Vader on the toilette I laughed for 15 minutes no kidding. Love your discussion on bullies and how they are damaged people seeking to damage to dull the pain. What is the main thing you see pastors struggling with. I would assume it is pride but would be curious what you have come across.


  7. Shawn Hart says:

    I had this response and then…like everyone else…Vader on the toilet distracted me. Go figure.

    So Jake, it was your second sentence that actually provoked my following question; you wrote, “The author’s definition of the Dark Side is what keeps me in business as a therapist.” I read this book from mainly the perspective as a preacher/minister. Though I have done quite a bit of counseling, it is more a byproduct than a primary aspect of what I do. So now my question: How does playing the role of the advisor or advice giver effect your dark side? Does it ever get to the point where you “NEED” to be the one people turn to for advice?

    I only ask because I knew someone that would get offended if they were not the first one people turned to for advice.

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