“Be they well-intentioned leaders or dictators driven by sinister motives, their dark side, like oil in a body of water, will always find its way to the surface and create a mess if it is not acknowledged and redeemed.”
— Gary McIntosh & Sam Rima
EVERYBODY in a spiritual fellowship deserves to be fed and watered by the Word of God through capable and trustworthy leaders. Such leaders are, first and foremost, emotionally intelligent; self-aware and able to self-manage, as to become socially aware and able to manage socially. And the great paradox is, emotional intelligence comes out of a wrestle with one’s dark side. Every good leader will become adept at this wrestle, even if at least initially they choose to deny they would have character flaws. The best leaders know how inherently flawed they really are.
The following list is a compilation from Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership.
1. Compulsion in the Leader
This leader is driven beyond the agency of a reasonable self-control. Such a leader is difficult to please as they’re an order Nazi. They have standards that even they can’t keep to, and they’re often as disappointed with themselves (if only they were more self-aware) as they are with other people. Compulsive leaders are often onerously judgmental and legalistic.
If you see yourself as having a problem with compulsion, it’s best you nurture your self-awareness so that you can learn to relax a little. Perfection is the enemy of the good.
2. Narcissism in the Leader
Deep insecurities drive a passion for attention that appears as supreme confidence. Narcissists have no capacity for empathy, they exploit others for their own gain, and they have a perception of their worthiness — they feel entitled.
If you see yourself as being better than others, watch out! Truth is, anyone attracted to spiritual leadership will have some form of narcissism to deal with. Self-awareness is key.
3. Paranoia in the Leader
Fear drives the paranoid leader into making mistakes as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pathetically jealous of others who do well, and constantly worried what others are saying about them, paranoia in the leader paralyses them.
Like with compulsive leaders, paranoid leaders have the propensity of control; actually all of these five leader types do. Once we’re free of paranoia, having called it for what it is, we’re freer to do God’s bidding with a clearer conscience.
4. Co-dependency in the Leader
More so as a throwback to growing up in dysfunctional relationships in the home, co-dependency is the state of living with someone who is compulsively dependent; for example, addictions.
Unless they’re self-aware, co-dependant leaders reinforce a sick system, and they often don’t feel they have much influence.
5. Passive-Aggressiveness in the Leader
Pessimistic in outlook, this person is going to be hard to get along with. They can be known for being resistant to change, and they tend to be on the look-out for people who they see as a threat.
Understanding that resistance is a totally reasonable sign for wanting to be mutually respected, when that resistance tips into an area where the passive-agressiveness is poignant, we see an inappropriate role for it. Passive-aggressive is unbecoming for a Christian leader.
The uppermost character competency in a spiritual leader is their nurtured self-awareness, and no growth in humility can occur without it.
Without self-awareness spiritual leaders will inevitably fail, and they’ll take a lot of innocent people down with them.
Good spiritual leaders are non-compulsive, meek and humble, measured and secure, interdependent, and direct communicators.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.