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Failure of Nerve


Those of you who know me are aware that I am an avid reader. I try to read broadly across many subjects including those that inform my work in pastoral ministry. At any given time I’ll have two to four books going in addition to the materials I read for sermon preparation. As my wife would say to her kindergarten class, “Books are our friends,” and in my experience, the authors of those books become counselors who challenge my thinking and provide wisdom for decisions that I face.

The most influential book I read last year (2011) is a book by Edwin Friedman titled Failure of Nerve. This book came to me at a particular time when I was facing some significant decisions. His work, published posthumously, continues to speak to me in 2012. Among the leadership lessons I learned from Friedman, I cite the following as most helpful:

1. Those who wish to disrupt leadership will always frame the problem in terms of liberty and order, while those in leadership will always see the problem as one of order and chaos.
2. Sabotage comes with the territory of leadership.
3. A society cannot evolve, no matter how much freedom is guaranteed, when the citizenry is more focused on one another than on their own beliefs and values.
4. Consensus will always be sought by those who value “we” over what is “right.”
5. Just because the page is torn off the calendar does not mean that unit of time has ceased to exist.
6. It’s always easier to be the least functional person in a high functioning society than to be a high functioning person in a dysfunctional society.
7. Well differentiated leadership (charting one’s own way by means of one’s own internal guidance system rather than perpetually eyeing the “scope” to see where others are at) is the solution to chronically anxious relationship systems.

These seven take-aways are a brief sampling of the content of the book. If you find any number of them compelling, the text as a whole will fill in any gaps or provide further detail. If you’re a leader of an organization, group, club, or team of any size or shape, I’d recommend Friedman’s book. His wisdom and insights will give you the perspective your need to make.

Categories : Books, Leadership

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