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

Be Different.

Written by: on October 17, 2019

In 1983, Apple launched its computer Lisa, and the last project Jobs worked on before he was let go. Jobs released Lisa with a nine-page ad in the New York Times spelling out the computer’s technical features. It was nine pages of geek talk nobody outside NASA was interested in. The computer bombed. When Jobs returned to the company after running Pixar, Apple became customer-centric, compelling, and clear in their communication. The first campaign he released went from nine pages in the New York Times to just two words on billboards all over America: Think Different.[1] Edwin Friedman, In Failure of Nerve, like Job’s, encourages us to think differently about leadership.

The late Edwin Friedman, according to Bob Thune, “served for 20 years as a pulpit rabbi and for 25 years as an organizational consultant & family therapist in the Washington DC area. He also served in the Lyndon Johnson administration. His unique experience allowed him to observe leadership – and its problems – in the family, the church, and the political sphere”.[2] In thinking differently about leadership Friedman said, “leaders do not fail because they lack information or skill, but because they lack the nerve to stand firm in the midst of other people’s emotional anxiety and reactions”, he continues as says, “leadership is essentially an emotional process rather than a cognitive phenomenon”.[3] Understanding this different approach to leadership leads one to then learn how to be a “well-differentiated leader” which at its most basic level is one who is has “clarity about his or her life own life goals, and, therefore, someone who is less likely to become lost in the anxious emotional processes swirling about them”.[4] If leadership at a foundational level is about interacting with people, then it is no wonder this book spoke to me at so many levels. For me, Friedman, in many ways, cuts through the clutter of technique in leadership theory and gets to the root of how to operate in the systems of relationships (organizations, families, churches).

Friedman’s ideas speak well into my research as the data and personal experience continue to paint a clear picture that, the emerging generation, is one of, if not the most anxious generations ever.[5] Leadership that only demonstrates technique will not be enough to impact and influence millennials nor gen z. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard business professor, in researching how business leaders can make a positive first impression says there are two questions people subconsciously ask when meeting someone new: “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” In her book Presence, Cuddy explains that human beings value trust so highly; it’s only after trust is established that a person begins to consider getting to know us further.[6] I think one of the critical components of leadership is trust, and therefore learning how to be trusting with our presence becomes paramount. In closing, Friedman highlights this point while in talking about the position a leader must take that will enable them to “go with the flow” while also “taking the lead” he writes,

The key to that positioning is the leaders own self-differentiation, by which I mean his or her capacity to be a non-anxious presence, a challenging presence, a well-defined presence, and a paradoxical presence. Differentiation is not about being courses, manipulative, reactive, pursuing, or invasive, but being rooted in the leaders own sense of self rather than focus on that of his or her followers.

I would add/change that as Spirit-led leaders, being rooted in Christ and understanding our own sense of self, is the key.




[1] Don Miller, StoryBrand Live Seminar, Nashville, TN, 2019.

[2] Thune, Bob. “Summary: Edwin Friedman’s ‘A Failure of Nerve’ in 500 Words.” bobthune.com, June 21, 2016. http://www.bobthune.com/2016/06/summary-edwin-friedmans-a-failure-of-nerve-in-500-words/.

[3] Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, ed. Margaret M. Treadwell and Edward W. Beal (New York: Seabury Books, 2007), 13.

[4] Ibid., 14.

[5] https://gspp.berkeley.edu/assets/uploads/page/Policy_Brief_Final_071618.pdf

[6] Amy Cuddy, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (New York: Little Brown and Company, 2015), 71–72. Miller, Donald. Building a StoryBrand (p. 227). HarperCollins Leadership. Kindle Edition.

About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

7 responses to “Be Different.”

  1. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Mario, I love how you associate both Apple and their transformation at the beginning of your piece, and the concept of being rooted in Christ at the end. Both framed your thoughts incredibly well!

    May we all be rooted in our own sense of self.

  2. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Yes! You used the quote that I underlined and read out loud to Justin this week when talking about our daughter. Rooted in Christ – not rooted in what what others are doing or think about us. I find it very tempting in leadership roles to be invasive or rescuing and am so grateful for this language Friedman offers – and the better choice presented of being rooted/anchored instead of tossed about.

  3. Nancy VanderRoest says:

    I appreciated your statement that “one of the critical components of leadership is trust and learning how to be trusting with our presence becomes paramount,” Mario. I agree that trust is the key to leadership in any role or capacity you may be serving in. But I also loved the ending to you blog, my friend: “as Spirit-led leaders, being rooted in Christ and understanding our own sense of self, is the key.” AMEN!

  4. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    I love your focus on questions that people are thinking in the face of leadership. Bob Logan of Logan Leadership, says all people (when first encountering a coach) ask, ” Can I trust you?, Can you help me?, and Do you care?” Good coaches answer these questions by strong coaching presence. To your point, good Spirit-led leaders display a strong presence when rooted in the Spirit rather than those they are trying to influence. I love your focus on “being rooted.”

  5. Jenn Burnett says:

    I appreciate you highlighting and extending the value of having a Christ-centred, rooted sense of self. Given that as Christians in the church we often rely on discernment by communities to identify both our gifts and our call, how do establish that sense of self and who do we invite into that discerning/defining process? Certainly mentors are a natural choice, but is there also a space for those who are experiencing our leadership? What ought to be the context in which our ‘self’ is defined sufficiently to offer healthy differentiation? Thanks for your post!

  6. Mario,
    I like your point on trust of the leader as key to his ‘presence’. It’s so true that relationships are built on trust and the more relationship capital you build, the more influence you yield. I believe too that The more rooted we become in Christ Jesus, the more differentiated we will be as leaders and be in a better position of greater influence.

  7. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Ok. So, my question with Friedman’s approach is about the limits of power. Emotional awareness in others can lead to manipulation. The book does seem to cover ethics, but I wonder if the material Friedman uses opens itself to excesses of power in the hands of those who so differentiate themselves they become supremely powerful to those lost in dysfunction or the anxiety of social regression. I liked the book’s thesis, but because it was never finished we are sort of guessing where the gaps are. Thoughts?

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