Overcoming Your Darkside of Leadership

More than likely you are reading this title thinking, “What? I don’t have a dark side; I do my best and am a good leader!” This is what I thought too until I started reading Overcoming the Darkside of Leadership by Gary Mclntosh and Samuel Rima. I did read this book in one of my Bible classes at ACU, but it can be recommended to anyone of any religion or belief.

Now, don’t get me wrong; there are great leaders out in the world today. But I wonder what exactly motivates these leaders? What are they seeking to accomplish with their leadership title and why does it really matter to them in terms of success? Mclntosh and Rima list five types of leaders: the COMPULSIVE leader, the NARCISSITIC leader, the PARANOID leader, the CODEPENDENT leader, and the PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE leader. Each of the qualities and tendencies within these different categories are normal and common.

However, it’s our job to recognize what motivates us. These five types of leaders show a person’s dark side. When I took the test provided at the end of each chapter describing each type of leader, man was I shocked! Not only did I have certain tendencies reflecting each area of the five types, I scored high in two of them. This was a huge eye opener for me and from reading the book, I was able to be true to myself and learn what I need to work on. I was subconscious to most of my flaws but now recognize what really motivates my drive for success and how to fix it.

First let’s take a look at compulsive leaders. This type of leader tends to be status conscious, looking for reassurance and approval from those in authority. They are usually workaholics, try to control activities and keep order. Sometimes they are excessively moralistic, conscientious, and judgmental. They can have rebellious and angry attitudes, yet may often feel the need to repress their anger and resentment because they feel it improper to show their true feelings. A compulsive dark side allowed to operate unchecked can result in a personal and organizational rigidity that stifles creativity and frays our relationship with others. It produces a self-righteous, legalistic environment that alienates the people we are called to lead. This is the category I scored the highest in. I did not realize I was compulsive in certain areas or the motives behind my success in a certain task. I now know what areas I need to keep an eye on.

Narcissistic leaders are driven to succeed by a need for admiration and acclaim. They may have an over inflated sense of importance and grandiose fantasies as well as great ambitions. They tend to be insecure, self-absorbed, uncertain due to deep levels of inferiority, and often never satisfied with their success. Narcissism can cause us to exploit those we have been called to lead. In the worst-case scenario, narcissism leads to unethical and illegal behavior as the leader is driven to achieve regardless of the price that must be paid.

The paranoid leader tends to be suspicious, hostile, fearful, and jealous. When they are afraid someone will undermine their leadership, they become hypersensitive to the actions of others, attach subjective meaning to motives, and create rigid structures for control. They also have strong feelings of insecurity and a lack of confidence. Acute distrust between leaders and boards, guerilla-type job warfare, and an inability to enjoy genuine fellowship are all the results of a leader’s paranoid dark side run amuck.

Codependent leaders are peacemakers who cover up problems rather than face them, in order to balance the group’s system. They often have a high tolerance for deviant behavior, and are willing to take on more work just so they do not have to let someone down. They react rather than act. They have a hard time giving a full, honest expression to emotions or problems. A codependent dark side can destroy relationships because the leader tries to keep everyone at work happy and meet every other need while ignoring their own family and personal needs.

Finally, there are the passive-aggressive leaders. These leaders have a tendency to resist demands to adequately perform tasks. They are stubborn, forgetful, and intentionally insufficient. They often complain, procrastinate out of fear of failure, and dawdle as a means of controlling those around them and their environment. These leaders live with the shame and consequences of his or her uncontrolled outbursts.

I know this is a lot of information to take on but just remember, whether you are a compulsive, narcissistic, paranoid, codependent, or passive-aggressive leader, it’s never too late to overcome your dark side. If you are a leader of a business, organization or group, I’d advise to go get this book and read it. It’s changing me into a better leader for the right reasons and I hope it will for you too.


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