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The Paradox of the Dark Leader:The Battle Within

The Paradox of the Dark Leader:The Battle Within

A number of you have requested to learn about how one becomes a Dark Leader. This reminds me of a story that might be familiar to you. Long, long ago, a nine year old slave boy Anakin Skywalker on the Planet Tatooine, is discovered by Jedi Knight Obi Wan Kenobi. who is protecting Princess Amidalla from the Planet Naboo from a murderous Sith Warior. After a series of adventures, the young boy, Anakin Skywalker’s freedom is purchased and becomes a Jedi Apprentice to Kenobi with the reluctant approval of the Jedi Council.

Young Skywalker is impatient, impetuous and is haunted by his own demons. He becomes a formidable warrior, and after losing his hand in a battle with a Sith Lord and avenging the death of his mother at the hands of the Tusken Raiders, marries Princess Amidalla.

Seduced by the Dark Side of the Force by the Emperor, Skywalker becomes a terror, seeking to eradicate the Jedi Knights Unable to contain his personal demons; he turns on his pregnant wife and his friend Obi Wan Kenobi. Skywalker’s wife later dies in childbirth after nearly being killed by a raging Skywalker accusing her of betraying him. He fights Kenobi and is left for dead critically wounded in a volcanic wasteland. Rescued by the Emperor, he is transformed into the embodiment of evil, the dark, sinister, and terrifying Lord Darth Vader, unaware of the birth of his son Luke and daughter Leia.

Now it is clear that Darth Vader with his menacing appearance and ruthless cruel behavior is a far cry from a Light Leader and some of you may have had to deal with a Darth or Dartha Vader in the workplace. What makes them the way they are? Why are they such a ‘Horrible Boss? The key to understanding what creates a Dark Leader, is gaining an understanding of what occurs within, and the experiences that shape and form us throughout our lives.

Authors Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima, Sr. in their book, “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: the Paradox of Personal Dysfunction, define Dark Leadership as “…the inner urges, compulsions and dysfunctions of (ones) personality that often go unexamined or remain unknown to one until there is an emotional explosion” (p.22).

In essence it is those attributes that are manifested as part of the hidden urges, compulsions and dysfunctions that remain unnoticed until there is an emotional explosion or a situation where those dysfunctions become public and are incorporated as part of that leader’s daily behavior.

It may a surprise for you to know that all of us have Dark Leader tendencies. Now, this doesn’t mean that we will all be wearing helmets and engaging in heavy breathing to announce our presence, but it does mean that a critical self-analysis is in order or at least a means of understanding why Dark Leaders behave the way they do., McIntosh and Rima argue that our dark side can be described as an overcompensation for unmet needs in our lives and is developed as we attempt to repay the varying degrees of existential debts that we have taken on.

While it is clear that Darth Vader is indeed a tragic figure, his character provides a wonderful case study on how a Dark Leaders develops. I am not suggesting that Dark Leaders are victims or it is a disease to be cured or that all Dark Leaders evolve into Darth Vaders. That is not an end state!  It must be realized that everyone is responsible for their behavior and the choices they make.

Being a Dark Leader is a choice, but, recognizing the forces behind the formation of Dark Leader behaviors provides an avenue to mitigate the effect of the Dark Leader within ourselves and our organizations.  This short article is only a scratch at the surface and provides only a taste of what is to come. In future articles we will examine various aspects of Dark Leader behavior, the effects on organizations and how to recognize and mitigate the effects of the Dark Leader within us all.

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Colonel (Ret) Terry Fobbs, PhD, Consultant and Facilitator for Gailforce Resources, is an accomplished public speaker, facilitator and media commentator on human resources, leadership, motivational, national security and community issues. With a BS-Zoology, MBA, Masters in-Strategic Studies, PhD- in Organization & Management specializing in Leadership, Terry has earned the respect of his peers, employer and Gailforce clientele. Terry is an ISO 9000 Certified Lead Assessor, a Baldrige Quality Examiner with the Center for Excellence in Education and the Michigan Quality Council and a recipient of the Michigan Quality Council Quality Hero Award. Terry has served as an adjunct instructor in Business Management for the University of Maryland. He is a member of the Academy of Management and serves as a member of the Academy’s Organizational Development and Entrepreneurship committees. Terry plays active consulting and facilitating roles for Gailforce Resources, working with CEO’s, Boards of Directors, Business Owners, Municipalities and Sector Groups to turn their business strategy into execution and their people into valuable business assets.

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