Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership is a solid introductory work on the sin and brokenness all leaders, indeed all people, face. With a basic mash up of theology and psychology, the Dark Side begins to unravel some of the fundamental shadow sides such as narcissism and codependency that tend to be revealed under the pressures of leadership, particularly in the Christian world. Written originally in 1997 with a revision in 2007, the authors shape their text out of their own lived experience and that of their peers. As a professor and pastor, Gary McIntosh and Sam Rima began studying the causes and potential methods for preventing the failings they and other’s around them were experiencing.
As a pastor who’s focus is empowering potential leaders to live into the whole vision of who God has made them to be and has heard raving reviews of McIntosh and Rima’s text, I have to admit I really wanted to enjoy this book and have some personal aha moments. Unfortunately, I found myself much more critical than I expected and searching both the library and internet for academic reviews to temper or ground my own thoughts. To my dismay, all I discovered were summaries of the text, charts of the dark side paradigms, and people saying this book was a must read for all pastors. Before going into my own critique, let’s begin with the well-done aspects of the text.
Creating a foundation for personal reflection and understanding of one’s own dark side, particularly twenty years ago when psychology and personal reflection within Christian leadership were not well-regarded or utilized, Rima and McIntosh have a straight forward outline for defining, prescribing and redeeming the dark side in a person’s life. Opening with a definition of the dark side as the basic premise that all leaders have some degree of personal dysfunction, which drives them to succeed while also being the root to their own self-sabotage of their leadership. The paradox of the drive that pushes leaders and the demise below the surface is not new but rather similar to psychologist Carl Jung’s work on the shadow self and beyond Jung, can be traced to the sin embedded in the fall of humanity that extends to all people. Pride, selfishness, self-deception, and wrong motives are all ways the dark side begins to manifest from childhood onward in each person’s life and can become the roots of major life trajectories such as compulsivity, narcissism, paranoia, codependency, and passive-aggressiveness. The author’s create a chapter for each trajectory or dark side, toward revealing to readers where they may fit best with a final section on overcoming. The five-step process creates space for hope and redemption of the shadowy self in the leader.
It is odd to be so critical of a book aiming to help leaders to think more deeply about issues they often do not see or want to face especially as it is a target I often seek within my own leadership scope, aiding leaders in their blind spots and weaknesses so as not to fall prey to the brokenness within. In reflecting on the content of the text and my twenty years of ministry experience, the five paradigms of the dark side describe many leaders I know and have worked with. Yet, as the introduction of the book confirms in both the original and updated version, the focus of the text is on a more specific group of leaders, namely baby boomers and the competition among them to be successful.
Perhaps I have learned from my many baby boomer mentors and bosses as I found myself only relating in part to the descriptions mentioned by Rima and McIntosh. But more likely, their book is not directed squarely at me or the leaders I work with in their twenties and thirties. This is in part due to the abundance of psychology and reflective content for Christian leaders produced by McIntosh, Rima, Peter Scazzero, Eugene Peterson, Henri Nouwen, and many others since the demise of the many baby boomers. In addition to the inspirational and spiritually formative texts has been a wave of writing on personality types with their relationship to Biblical principles reviewing both the strengths and weaknesses in a more nuanced fashion. Particularly, the enneagram and the work of Richard Rohr has enlightened many to the complexities of who they are in relationship to both their gifting and struggles.
Another point of divergence, and probably the stronger of the two, is the reality that the text is aimed primarily at male leaders. In reading through the text, one will note all core examples are about men, including each Biblical character and the references within the chapter revealing the ways the dark side is lived today. There are two exceptions where women are primary examples, both in business. First is Lisa the astronaut mentioned in chapter two as an example of “When Our Dark Side Endangers Others”. The second is Janet, the young businesswoman in chapter seventeen who is unable to resist the poison of expectations. Beyond Lisa and Janet women are mentioned as a backdrop for men as their co-workers, spouses or victims (note The Scarlet Letter, Eve and Bathsheba). Of the 108 references to ‘her’ more than half are in general ‘him or her’ language while the more than five hundred references to ‘his’ refer specifically to the male authors, God, or specific examples of male leaders and their stories. This doe not mean women cannot glean from the text. However, it does not speak from a woman’s perspective or to who women are as a growing segment of the church and leadership within the church.
While an argument can be made that both younger generations and women can benefit from McIntosh and Rima’s text, there are a variety of leaders who are speaking to modern and more diverse audiences, including Brene Brown and Sally Morganthaler. As Morganthaler has stated, “In the end, ministry effectiveness in the postmodern turn is not the result of a leader’s gender, but the degree to which they are embedded in the new world, how little their personal identity is tied to power and position, and how clearly they get what needs to happen now that the show is over.”
 McIntosh, Gary L. and Samuel D. Rima. Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures. Baker Publishing Group: Grand Rapids, 2007. Location 216.
 McIntosh and Rima, Location 479.
 Ibid., Location 2358.
 Morganthaler, Sally. “A New Conversation about Gender.” Christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/women-leaders/2007/november/new-conversation-about-gender.html (March 1, 2018)