Dennis Tourish in his work, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective, provides a sharp rebuke against the effectiveness of transformational leadership. Villiers in his review states, “Tourish parallels transformational leadership with cults; and argues that the noticeable overlaps should caution against the potential of moving organizations further along the dysfunctional cult continuum than is desirable. Tourish in his own words also makes clear what the book is about,
“This is a book about charismatic visionaries whose charisma is an illusion planted in the minds of their followers and whose vision is feeble, illusory or inappropriate, despite its appeal to many. It is a book about the limits on the ability of leaders to do good and the tendency of many to put their own self-interest above the collective good of their followers”.
Any book that seeks to tackle the “dark side” of anything will inherently lead to a dark tone itself, and this book is no different. In saying that, all leaders should be aware of the potential to use power and authority negatively if such leaders genuinely desire the best for the organization and people they have the privilege to lead.
As this book was written after the economic disasters in the mid-2000’s, it seems fitting that the dark side of transformational leadership needed to be addressed. Much of the literary at the time only praised this form of leadership while contrasting it against transactional leadership. One of the main characteristics of transformation leadership that Tourish criticizes is Charismatic leadership. Tourish points at that,
In particular, Maccoby (2000) suggests that many charismatic leaders are narcissists – that is, people with an inordinately well-developed self-image, in which they take great pride and on which they reflect frequently. They are also likely to have a strong need for power, high self-confidence and strong convictions (De Vries et al . 1999). Rather than flexibly responding to feedback, the narcissistic but charismatic visionary leader is inclined to perceive reality through the distorting prism of his or her vision”.
As a leader in the stream of faith that leans heavily into this exact charismatic leader model, it brought clarity to many issues I have seen over and over in again in our portion of the Church. The question then becomes, how do we combat this narcissistic inclination? I believe one way is understanding leadership as a relationship and practicing deep self-awareness and other-awareness.
Walter Wright, in his book Relational Leadership, writes, “Leadership is a relationship between a leader and a follower-ideally, a relationship of shared vision, shared responsibility, and shared leadership.” In this model of leadership, the leader is just as dependent on the follower because without “followers” there is no leader. While labels are hard to dismiss altogether, this model lifts the importance of both parties involved in leadership, not just one. While Transformational leadership seeks to take identity away, Relational leadership must always establish identity because, “In a relationship of influence everyone has some influence, and the exercise of leadership is determined by the choice to follow. Here is where emotional intelligence or the practice of deep self-awareness and other-awareness is helpful.
Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we, perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way. Recent research has indicated that emotional intelligence is twice as important than the purpose, vision, mission, and organization in predicting productivity and accomplishment. Again, as one who is surrounded by “charismatic” leaders, the anecdote maybe to practice deep self-awareness and other-awareness for personal development and organizational effectiveness. If leaders want to see a transformation in persons or organization, the aim should not be to take away what is unique about someone or something but to understand the value the uniqueness brings to the table.
*Did anyone else keep seeing the Dark Knight as you read this book. 🙂
” Rouxelle de Villiers, Book essay on “The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective,” (Journal of Business Research, Volume 67, Issue 12, 2014), Pages 2512-2514, ISSN 0148-2963, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2014.01.006.
 Tourish, Dennis. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective, Routledge, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/georgefox/detail.action?docID=1154334. 17.
 Villiers, Book essay on “The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective,” 2512.
 Tourish, The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective, 21.
 Tourish, The Dark Side of Transformational leadership: A Critical Perspective, 25.
 Wright Jr. Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Influence and Service (Kindle Locations 117-118). Kindle Edition
” Wright Jr. Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Influence and Service (Kindle Locations 605-606). Kindle Edition.
MHS training manual. Find out more about MHS here, https://tap.mhs.com/Home
 Walter C. Wright Jr. Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Influence and Service (Kindle Locations 447-448). Kindle Edition. Also see, Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence (New York: Bantam Books, 1998), 320.