Kets de Vries has put together a variety of cautionary essays in Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership. It was helpful to remember his admission that he has been greatly affected by dystopian literature. He writes about the dark side of leadership and yet still maintains a sense of hope. Perhaps his goal is that if we consider long enough the destructive potential of leadership that we may actually end up choosing differently. It reminded me of Tourish’s The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership and his objective to “challenge its (transformational leadership) fundamental premises in a significant way and scrutinize its contradictions.” I will follow Tourish and Kets de Vries down their path of scrutiny.
Some may be aware of what transpired recently in American evangelical circles between Pastor John MacArthur and Bible teacher Beth Moore. I will not go into details but suffice it to say, it has been ugly and painful, with MacArthur telling the audience at his conference that Beth Moore needs to “go home”, among other things. I have refrained from making any social media comments and have attempted restraint with time spent down this “rabbit hole”. I offer a few simple thoughts and questions here on two themes I have observed from this incident.
There is a good deal of anger on both sides of this controversy. It has made me wonder about the connection between extremities and anger. Do they always go together? When does anger become destructive? I wonder about what Paul admonished “in your anger, do not sin” and what that looks like in this situation. We all experience anger. And when it touches on issues of dignity and discrimination, there is an appropriate righteous anger. And we still cannot ignore the call to “not sin” in this. How do we stay pure, all while experiencing anger at injustice? Surely this is a work of grace and really difficult.
What practices would Christian leaders need to create space for this work of grace without disengaging from injustices?
Kets de Vries is helpful in his chapter “Are You Addicted to Power?”. He offers a list of questions to help an honest leader determine their relationship with power:
- Do you like telling other people what to do?
- Do you define yourself in terms of your title and net worth?
- Do you always like to win?
- Do you like the attention and special treatment that comes with your position?
- Do you like to impress other people?
He normalizes how intoxicating power can be and warns of its “corrosive effects”. When you have witnessed the abuse of power, it is tempting to react in an extreme manner. That is, to either abdicate and reject power or to become obsessed with it. I am not sure that abdication of power is even possible, short of one living as a hermit. And it is possible that the obsessed pathway begins innocently enough, with the seedling idea that I could wield it more judiciously than the other. But I believe either extreme is missing something. And I hope there is a better way. What would the via media look like with power?
The leader would use their inevitable power to come under and lift up others. Was this not what Jesus was referring to when calling His disciples to not lord over those they lead but to go low and to serve?
Again, what practices would a Christian leader need in order to use their power for the common good and not allow it to grow into a deformity?
Yes, these reflections on anger and power come mostly from a controversy this week that has erupted but there are applications to more than just our civil discourse in the public square. We can apply these questions of anger and power to our church leadership teams. We can use it to try to navigate a different way of leading that takes the best from extremes but is not captive to them. Specifically, I am interested in the intersection of the following: the passion and hard work of social justice with the increasing love born out of contemplative practices. This week has reminded me that there is much work to do around this in my own life and in evangelicalism.
I want Beth Moore to have the last word:
True intimacy with God always brings humility.
 Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole of Leadership: Leadership Pathology in Everyday Life, (Cham, Switzerland: Palmgrave Macmillan, 2019), 5-9.
 Dennis Tourish. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A Critical Perspective. (Hove: Routledge, 2013), 199.
 Ephesians 4:26
 Kets de Vries, Down the Rabbit Hole, 62.
 Ibid., 62.
 Mark 10:42
 Beth Moore on twitter @BethMooreLPM; I admit going down the “rabbit hole” when looking for this quote. #beinghonest