Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A strong sense of oneself is the key to effective leadership

Written by: on November 28, 2021

In our culture today, its not uncommon for any person who is self-focused to be labeled as prideful or on the extreme as narcissistic. Its not uncommon for people that have a strong personality and who exude confidence to be dismissed as narcissistic. I will dare wade into mucky waters of political controversy by referring the immediate former president of American, Donald trump whose rare courage and self-focus earned him the label of the most narcissistic person on earth, and drew both admiration and loath in equal measure. Edwin Howard Friedman was an ordained Jewish Rabbi, family therapist and leadership consultant. In his Psychology and leadership book A Failure of Nerve, Friedman directs to different factors that make a leader more effective than what has traditionary been advanced by many leadership literatures.[1] Friedman points to the self-focused leaders who self-differentiates and self-regulates themselves as the more effective leaders. The book is not an easy read but its very rich in great leadership insights and I will personally add the book to my library as a reference book.

Friedman advocates for leadership that is focused on thinking about long-term leadership challenges and lays a foundation towards better personal health and effectiveness, rather than being preoccupied with seeking for quick fixes. A leadership that is also able to discern that most organizations, governments, and individuals are stuck in a leadership climate that is toxic where leaders are stuck in conflict or malaise, misguided, and insecure leaders are preoccupied with searching for solutions in better techniques that guarantee safety and control. The trending preoccupation of leaders in seeking for better and better leadership data in: the next book; the next seminar; the next survey or study, has trapped them in a self-defeating addiction, among leaders whom Friedman says lack nerve. Friedman sees lacking in nerve as a form of escapism for leaders who do not understand their role in the prevailing breakdown that surround them or the actions they need to take to overcome organizational deadlock.

The real problem of leadership according to Friedman, is that we’ve forgotten or failed to understand the powerful influence of universal emotional or instinctual processes that are always at work in the daily attempts to organize and motivate people, “when dealing with people let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic, we are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”[2] When leaders understands this, they recognize that it’s a leader’s being, presence, and courage that is more vital for their effectiveness (and their happiness) than anything else. The more leaders are present and they stand in the midst of conflict, the more effective they will be. “The way out [of America’s crisis of leadership] . . . requires shifting our orientation to the way we think about relationships, from one that focuses on techniques that motivate others to one that focuses on the leader’s own presence and being.”[3]

Organizations that are stuck in looking for new methods, control and certainty succumb to imaginative gridlock which Friedman likens to mediaeval Europe that for thousands of years was stuck in gridlock until adventurous men like Columbus broke through the continent’s dominant emotional barriers to discover unknown worlds. It is this spirit of adventure and discovery that propelled Europe into the renaissance, reformation, and the modern era. It is very important that leaders learn how to separate themselves from the dominant emotional climate in their organization in order to break through barriers to discovery, to bring renewal, rebirth, and renaissance to the organization. Preoccupation with unending treadmill to trying harder; looking for better data instead of using reframed questions and/or adopting a way of thinking that creates dichotomies, is what characterizes gridlocked organizations.

As a leader, I am challenged and I feel like the book was written for me specifically to be better leader. I can see how as an organization, we have been preoccupied with seeking better data and trying to work harder. While I would categorically say that we have experienced exponential growth in our organization by being led courageously by a clear vision and decisiveness, there is a lot to learn from this book. I clearly see the place for being more decisive, keep focus on the bigger vision, and especially breaking away from the dominant organization emotional barriers. There are great insights that stuck with me and which I will work on and train other leaders in the ministry organization. As I also reflect on my research topic on the case for holistic ministry among the vulnerable communities in my country Kenya, I am better equipped for the research. I will be looking at for how Friedman’s emphasis on the leader being present and standing in the conflict is applicable in these contexts and how adopting Friedman’s model of leader can help in bringing more transformation of livelihoods of the vulnerable individuals, their families, and their local communities.


[1] Edwin H. Friedman. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in The Age of Quick Fix. (New York City, New York. USA. Church Publishing, 2017)

[2] Dale Carnegie. How to win Friends and Influence People: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. (London, UK. Vermilion Books, 2006).

[3] Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, 2017, pg 4.

About the Author


Mary Kamau

Christ follower, Mother of 3 Biological children and one Foster daughter, Wife, Pastor, Executive Director of Institutional Development and Strategy in Missions of Hope International, www.mohiafrica.org.

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