The Dark Side of Leadership – from an unlikely place

055338205501_bo2204203200_pisitbdp500arrSteven Pressfield’s book on Alexander the Great has some very provocative and applicable sections for leaders…he dives into Alexander’s "dynamis" (his will to fight) as well as his "daimon"…another word for the "dark side" of a leader.  In this novel, Alexander does not "conquer" his daimon.  He discovers from a sage near the end of the novel that, unless checked, the daimon will lead to his destruction. 

"The daimon is inhuman," Telamon states.  "The concept of limits is alien to it.  Unchecked, it devours everything, including itself.  Is it evil?  Is the acorn, aspiring to become the oak?  Is the fingerling, seeking the sea?  In nature, the will to dominion is held within bounds by the limited capacity of the beast.  Only in man is this instinct unrestrained and only in that man like you, my friend, whose gifts and preeminence transcend all external governance…a man must kill himself to slay his daimon"  (page 312).

I’ve thought about this quite a bit since I read it…unrestrained power, control, dominance, and authority in leadership can lead to huge downfalls.  In pastoral ministry, as has been exclaimed in many places of late (see David Fitch’s great blog on Senior Pastors), focused power through positional "CEO" type of leadership is fraught with a plethora of possibilities of abuse and downfall.  Unchecked, and the "shadow side" of leadership (ego, autocratic temptations, lack of communal checks/balances, even pride and arrogance) can come sneaking in and lead to destruction.  I know my story is loaded with examples of times where "my daimon" went unchecked.  I’ve listened carefully to many, many voices of late…but this novel about Alexander (who died in his early 30’s and never could conquer his own lusts and dark side) reminds me that we should only be trusting those who have "put themselves to death".  I know that is what needs to continually happen in my life…how about yours?

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