DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

And That’s All I Have to Say About That!

Written by: on March 1, 2018

Leader: don’t let the title deceive you. The dark side of leadership is not in the leading. The epicenter of the dark side is located within the leader! I begin with a quote and some questions every leader should ask themselves.

“Why is it that we always assume that our leadership is good? Why do we believe that our vision for God’s church is always the right vision and that for anyone to question or challenge our vision is tantamount to insubordination against God himself? The sad reality is that all too often, when we are living and leading from the shadow of our dark side, danger lurks around virtually every corner, not only for us but also for the people and organizations that we lead.” [1]

Every person has a dark side. But for leaders, and maybe especially those in the church, that dark side can either “drive us toward success or undermind our accomplishments.” [2] The determining factor is how the leader approaches their dark side. The leader who fails to acknowledge and investigate their dark side are walking on thin ice. But those who are able to redeem their dark side can help negate its effect and actually become better leaders. [3]

It is our experiences and our real or perceived unmet needs during our developmental years that provides the catalyst for how our dark side impacts us. [4] However, the raw materials that feed the dark side are pride, selfishness, deception and wrong motives. [5] They are the ice cream flavors on which the dark side gorges itself.

We can try to hide the dark side. Some of the most successful leaders are able to navigate life and leadership with a smoke and mirror effect that distracts people away from seeing the dark side. We call it the bob and weave. But leadership has a way of bringing the dark side to light—at least to others. It shows up in the expression of our leadership. Are we the compulsive leader, the narcissistic leader, the paranoid leader or the co-dependant / passive-aggressive leader? That is the important question. Which one am I?

Okay, I took the tests, and I’m not telling. The point is my family and those who work with me already know. They can see it, but I had to take multiple tests to gain a bit of insight, and even then I’m saying…well maybe, but maybe not. We just can’t see our weaknesses or even worse we deny or try to hide them.  And that, for me, is the point of the book. To deny the dark side is one the most significant detriments to ourselves our families and or leadership, and yet we are tempted to believe we are the ones who will get away with it. Therefore, leaders do not often surround themselves with a circle of close friends and leaders who will challenge them. There are those that do, but they are rare.

In my life in ministry and now with my research on middle leadership I have often asked the question, why is it that middle leaders (not people outside of the team, or people meaning to harm the team or ministry) have difficulty challenging the leader. The apparent reasons are evident—let’s start with the fear of getting fired! It’s awful cold and dark out there. But there is also the drive to move forward or in most cases upward. That drive can lead to a silent calculation of our next move so that the next step, battle or challenge counts toward our own advancement and not necessarily the improvement of the leader, the team or ministry.

The drive of leadership is an interesting animal. I have seen it and experienced it myself. There is this sincere desire to impact the world that, if not checked and redeemed at the cross, can quickly turn into an unhealthy and ungodly “ambition.” And as the authors state, “ambition is easily disguised in Christian circles and couched in spiritual language (the need to fulfill the Great Commission and expand the church).” Because of that, “the dysfunctions that drive Christian leaders often go undetected and unchallenged until it is too late.” [6] And that’s all I’ve got to say about that!

There are several things about this book for which I am grateful. First, the authors chose to use terms like “we” and “us” instead of “you.” No one is exempt from the dark side. Second, I am grateful that the Dark Side doesn’t advance an “easy” three-step process for successfully overcoming the dark side. The authors present steps, but none of them are quick or easy. In addition, the authors acknowledge the true purveyor of the allusion of the dark side. That for which we quickly blame on the “enemy,” is in fact, our inability to acknowledge and deal with our own dark side. [7] The inward journey is not an easy one; I am grateful for the admonition. Finally, the authors give hope through Christ’s grace over legalism, through community over isolation and knowledge over ignorance. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that!

 

 

  1. Gary L. MacIntosh. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures (Kindle Locations 417-419). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  2. Ibid., Location 407.
  3. Ibid., Location 307.
  4. Ibid., Location 833.
  5. Ibid., Locations 724-785.
  6. Ibid., Location 179.
  7. Ibid., Location 2060.

About the Author

Jim Sabella

12 responses to “And That’s All I Have to Say About That!”

  1. Mary says:

    Well said, Jim.
    I thought about your work on the position of the middle leaders as I read this book. They have challenges both ways. I thought about you even more as I read the Chand book (we have to travel next week so I’m getting ahead.)
    How does a leader help his associate to be successful? Of course, she wants to be the leader someday herself. What a quandary!

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks, Mary. How does a leader help his associate to be successful? I would say, by modeling authentic leadership. I’m am of the opinion that this not only prepares the person for future leadership but for life as well. My 2 cents.

  2. Lynda Gittens says:

    “Why is it that we always assume that our leadership is good? Why do we believe that our vision for God’s church is always the right vision and that for anyone to question or challenge our vision is tantamount to insubordination against God himself?
    Christian leaders think that way because they believe they were the chosen one so of course, they are perfect!

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks for your comment Lynda. You’re right, some leaders do think that way. But I would say that most church leaders do not. Though they feel they are called of God, they do not see themselves as perfect, but more as humble servants of God. Thanks, Lynda.

  3. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Wow, Jim, this was great: “We can try to hide the dark side. Some of the most successful leaders are able to navigate life and leadership with a smoke and mirror effect that distracts people away from seeing the dark side. We call it the bob and weave.” This is so unsettling to experience leaders like this who purposely mislead and confuse to keep control. If you can keep someone confused you can keep them controlled. As Christians, we are called to connect, which means we need to speak the truth in love to have a connecting relationship versus a controlling relationship. I remind myself of how I want a connecting relationship when I am tempted to avoid or downplay my errors, and I have to consciously choose to respond with humility and love. Not so easy for me sometimes, especially when the other person seems more wrong than me. Thank you for reminding me of this.

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks, Jenn. When I read the quote, it reminded me that I must choose my words more wisely. I should have said, “‘some leaders’ are able to navigate life and leadership with a smoke and mirror effect.” Success is clearly not an indication of problems. Most leaders in the church are excellent leaders, wonderful people, and dedicated Christians—this includes the team of leaders with whom I serve. It is the few with the greatest problems that we hear about. And we can quickly form an inaccurate opinion about leaders in the church in general. I appreciate your comments.

  4. Stu Cocanougher says:

    “However, the raw materials that feed the dark side are pride, selfishness, deception and wrong motives. They are the ice cream flavors on which the dark side gorges itself.”

    That made me laugh. But this is a good analogy. Sin always looks attractive at first, but when you FEED it, it grows into something monsterous.

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Stu, that was in reference to your response when I was facing writer’s block and I messaged the 7s for encouragement and inspiration. You said something like, “write about ice cream!” It worked. Thanks!

  5. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    “leadership has a way of bringing the dark side to light”– very punny.

    I really appreciate your reference: In addition, the authors acknowledge the true purveyor of the allusion of the dark side. That for which we quickly blame on the “enemy,” is in fact, our inability to acknowledge and deal with our own dark side.”
    It becomes easy to play the “blame game” for any hurdles or failures in leadership and/or ministry. But this hits at the heart of it, as Pogo reminds us:
    https://goo.gl/images/VXG2Ay

  6. Jim,
    Great post as usual. I think you really hit on exactly why this book and the focus on our ‘dark side’ so it doesn’t become ‘our whole’:

    Okay, I took the tests, and I’m not telling. The point is my family and those who work with me already know. They can see it, but I had to take multiple tests to gain a bit of insight, and even then I’m saying…well maybe, but maybe not.

    So often – the dark side is so dangerous, simply because we don’t realize what it is or what role it plays in who we are.

    thanks again for the post

  7. Kristin Hamilton says:

    “To deny the dark side is one the most significant detriments to ourselves our families and or leadership, and yet we are tempted to believe we are the ones who will get away with it. Therefore, leaders do not often surround themselves with a circle of close friends and leaders who will challenge them.”
    Wow. You said so much truth here, Jim! Speaking only for myself it’s easy to stay in denial and avoid people who will challenge that.
    I also appreciate your comment about no easy steps to overcoming the darkside. There really is no easy way. Thank you for your careful examination here.

  8. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    “o deny the dark side is one the most significant detriments to ourselves our families and or leadership, and yet we are tempted to believe we are the ones who will get away with it. Therefore, leaders do not often surround themselves with a circle of close friends and leaders who will challenge them. There are those that do, but they are rare.” Great point Jim. I n my own life, I keep only honest and forthright people in my inner circle. Ones to can speak the truth in love and walk beside me with grace and as I experience growth and transformation. To not do so, for me would and has been detrimental.

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