Ahhh, the dark side of transformational leadership! What a nice, light topic for this week. It reminds me of the Darth Vader of leadership! Such a bright subject to tackle but also a necessary subject as well.
Transformational leadership is a leadership style that can inspire positive changes in those who follow. The problem is that charismatic leaders can create millions of followers and yet have all the wrong intentions. Our political environment right now is in turmoil because of some of the wrong charismatic leaders being in some of the wrong places. I won’t tackle the President and what I see as his failures, as I know there are those that trust in him and follow him. But I also know that power in the wrong hands can be dangerous.
I live in a family of transformational leaders. My dad was the mayor of our small town, my husband was a State Senator, and I myself served as head of many organizations and non-profit organizations. But I saw so much corruption within the political world. Leaders were leading people into many negative directions because they possessed a charisma that people listen to and followed. As Tourish pointed out in his book, charisma can be a scary thing. That’s because leaders don’t necessarily act in the best interest of the organization and instead allow self-interest and personal goals to override the organization’s goals.
When I was a director of a local non-profit entity a number of years ago, we had an Executive Director over the organization who was anything, but scrupulous. His followers were many, but his intentions were personal. Because of that, the non-profit was not the focus for him. It was all about him getting ahead! What I found was that people will follow leaders with blinders on because of their charismas alone. That is a scary thought!
Andy Andrews’ book, How Do you Kill 11 Million People? is a very powerful story about the Holocaust. In the book, the author tells about how Hitler tricked 11 million people to go to their own death through his leadership filled with lies. It is truly a powerful example of a charismatic leader who misled people through his dark side influence. In it, Andrews explores that “if it is correct that ‘you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,’ then is it possible that if you don’t know the truth, its absence can place you in bondage? (or even lead you to death?”) In the case of the Holocaust, this couldn’t be more true. As Hitler continued to lie to the Jews, they could have revolted at any time and certainly taken over Hitler’s regime. Yet, they believed the lies and followed his leadership, walking blindly into a falsehood that cost them their lives.
John Lennon once said, “Living is easy with eyes closed.” Every day in this world, people are blindly following false leaders. And each day, we are losing a part of our value and self-worth as we trust and believe in the wisdom of the unwise. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could know the one true Leader and follow in His calling upon our lives? Because walking in blindness can lead us into oblivion.
In the final words of Soren Kierkegaard, a famous Danish theologian, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” AMEN!!!
 Dennis Tourish, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective (Sussex: Routledge, 2013), 20.
 Andy Andrews, How Do You Kill 11 Million People? (New York: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 32.