The USAmerican Evangelical world in which I was raised frowned upon things like self-awareness and introspection, considering them to be akin to navel-gazing at best and self-absorption at worst. But the idea of self-awareness isn’t a novel concept. In his famous work, Institutions of Christianity, Calvin wrote, “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.” As we move into the 21st century, it seems that the western Church is waking up to the importance of self- understanding. The Bible teaches that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. We are invited to cooperate with this transformation process, but doing so requires that we open ourselves up to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit and be willing to examine ourselves.
Any authentic self-reflection will uncover faults and weaknesses in our character. In the book Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures, authors McIntosh and Rima aim to help leaders identify some of those weakness and offer “specific steps for overcoming the dark side lurking in [their] success before [they] get blindsided by it.” I applaud their call to sincere introspection, as I do believe self-awareness increases God-awareness and enables us to respond to the Spirit’s redemptive work in our life.
Unfortunately, though this book offers a couple of nods to the Holy Spirit and a plethora of cameos by beloved historical and Bible characters, it provides few insights as to how this process of understanding, discovering, and redeeming one’s dark side might be different because of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Though the authors are Christians, they present a book that appears to have been written by what Parker Palmer describes as “functional atheists,” that is, “the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us.”
Over and over, the authors state that we need to redeem our own dark sides. In fact the third section of the book is entitled, “Redeeming Our Dark Side.” Perhaps these authors have never participated in a liturgical church, where the community confesses each week that they are in bondage to sin and cannot free themselves. One of the great fallacies that emerges from this belief that one can redeem oneself is the instance that our dark side can be “a power for good.” Even the examples in the book demonstrate that what is really happening is that one sin is being used to keep another in check. For example, I am, at my core a glutton. But for years, the reason that I was not fat was not because I had been transformed and redeemed from my sin of gluttony, but rather because I also am very vain. When the authors talk about the dark side being a force for good, it as if they are saying, “Isn’t it nice that your vanity kept your gluttony in check all of these years?”
No. It’s not good. Nor is it good that Billy Graham was driven to “prove Emily and his family wrong and make something of himself.” This is not true redemption. A dark side might push us to succeed, but if the motivations are muddy, then the success is tainted.
Ironically, when Parker Palmer writes about the shadow side of leadership, he identifies “functional atheism” as one of the biggest shadows with which leaders struggle. “This is the unconscious, unexamined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here, we are the ones who must make it happen—a conviction held even by people who talk a good game about God.”
In all fairness, the authors of Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership do mention a need to find our identity in Christ in the final chapter. But it feels like a courtesy nod to the Savior of the world, rather a cry of desperation to the One who is, in every way, our only hope.
In the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice there is a fabulous chapter entitled “Identity Based Leader Development” where the authors describe the process of a how leaders themselves undergo transformation and growth. The secular wisdom and research shared in this chapter reveals a deep spiritual truth, which is that information does not equal transformation. They quote Bennis, who says, “A person does not gather learnings as possessions but rather becomes a new person with those learnings as part of his or her self.”
Similarly, I would say that a Christian does not redeem herself, but becomes a new person as Christ is formed in her.
 Calvin, Jean, and Ford Lewis Battles. Calvin: Institutes of the Christian religion. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.
 In Galatians, Paul talks about being “in labor” for the Church until “Christ is formed” in them. And in 2 Corinthians Paul says that we are being “transformed into the same image” of Christ.
 Gary L McIntosh and Samuel D. Sr. Sr Rima, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures, Ebook (Grand Rapids: Baker Pub. Group, 2010). Loc 178.
 Parker Palmer. “Leading From Within • Center for Courage & RenewalCenter for Courage & Renewal,” accessed March 1, 2018, http://www.couragerenewal.org/parker/writings/leading-from-within/.
 Loc 403 “…he faced his dark side and began redeeming it.” Loc 696 “Leaders who face their dark side and redeem it accomplish the most over the long run.” Loc 1809 “…we can begin to redeem our dark side regarless of the shape it has taken.” Loc 1813 “…leaders are expected to exercise a higher degree of self-management, redeeming their dark side and thus mitigating its potentially negative influences.” Loc 2603 “It is critical…that we be transparent so that we can keep our dark side in check.” Loc 1899 “When a leader fails to redeem his or her codependent behavior….” Loc 2057 “…before we can begin redeeming our dark side.” Loc 2522 “…in the constant process of redeeming my dark side….”
 McIntosh and Rima, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership. Loc 1811
 McIntosh and Rima. 1231.
 McIntosh and Rima. Loc 1231.
 Parker Palmer. “Leading From Within • Center for Courage & RenewalCenter for Courage & Renewal.”
 Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana, eds., Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: An HBS Centennial Colloquium on Advancing Leadership (Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Press, 2010). Loc 8095.
 Nohria and Khurana. Loc 8095.