Don’t Get Punked
Was this book written as a forewarning for America’s upcoming election? Hmmm….
Before diving into the content of this book, let’s focus a little on the “why” portion of this book. The author believes there’s a “rampant sabotaging of leaders” that exist in our American society that creates a reactive atmosphere and a regressive mood that “contaminates” (that’s a strong word) decision-making. The author’s perspective is the evolution of his forty years of teaching and practicing in a spectrum of fields. He witnessed families and institutions “recycle their problems” for years and ignore innovative efforts. The bottom line is this, our society is reactive, so we choose leaders in our moments of anxiety, hoping they will create a quick fix to our problems, instead of clarity and decisiveness of our actions. American society is stuck in a ‘leadership rut.’
Imagine the legacy that we’ll desire or think we deserve to leave behind as leaders. Friedman died while writing ‘Failure of Nerve’ but his colleagues Ted Beal and Peggy Treadwell assembled his notes because they felt his work was worth reading. I know, it’s incomplete which is usually the case when we’re dead…we leave puzzle pieces behind, hoping someone can put them together (3 offshore accounts, two 401ks, a house in Hawaii and an overseas business).
The premise of this book focuses on two dimensions of American’s leadership, the conceptual and emotional process. The author believes that there’s an emotional process in our American society that affects ‘parents and presidents.’ Our denial of these emotional process tends to affect us in two ways:
- It “erodes and devalues the individuation necessary for effective ”
- It “influences the very way we conceptualize leadership problems to begin ”
The author in the second part of this book presented “new ways of understanding leadership that are applicable to all families and institutions, taking those emotional processes into account and emphasizing the importance of the leader’s own self-differentiation.” Here’s the deal, every culture has people who lead others with and to anxiety, but the anxiety is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the leader can stand his or her grounds without being ‘punked’ into reacting.
In the NFL, the quarterback is generally the head of the group, and this is the culture of the sport because the quarterback is generally “The Face” of the team. Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots (my home team) reminisce about his time playing for the Chicago Bears by stating, “Jay Cutler thought he was the leader of the team but everyone in the locker room knew he wasn’t.” If the coach or quarterback were to react prematurely because of an interview, it could ruin the chemistry of the team. Bennett was one of the best players in the game last year and while we’re grateful to have him on my Patriots team (yes, I take ownership), I can’t shake the thoughts of whether there was sabotage on his old team. Well, maybe I’m having an ‘emotional resistance’ that’s clouding my ability to see the adventure with Tom Brady, Martellus Bennett, and Rob Gronkowski playing together on the New England Patriots.
Envisioning myself among the next wave of global leaders, this book shows how easy it is for us to suggest that leadership rut varies among cultures and all solutions are different. However, Friedman shows that social science has its place, but experiences also show commonalities across cultures that are useful for positive change. In London, Shawn_________ reminded each listener that some secular business principles were applicable for the success of our religious institutions. Whether private or public sector, sabotage exists although some religious leaders try to camouflage the effects on their church congregations.
Exit or Way Out
The way out, rather, 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. According to Friedman, when we compare modern America to Medieval Europe before the Renaissance, America is in the same place regardless of the perceived technological advancement because of the following three limitations:
- Focusing on data over decisiveness (and maturity)
- Regression to empathy over responsibility, and conformity to weakness over strength
- Confusion of self with selfishness
However, there is perceived hope because Friedman believes the following new relationship models will lift the off our limitations:
- New understandings of emotional processes within the organization
- New ways of observing and managing crises and sabotages.
- ” In the ‘Keystone Chapter’ (chapter 6), we are reminded as leaders to develop our self-differentiation and maintain a safe space between the systems we lead.
The author is clear that if we are to rise above our limitations, we need new relationship models to be functional. Leadership is always evolving, sometimes repetitive and sometimes require abruptness (in decision making). This book provides a healthy dose of all three because we saw abrupt endings of the unfinished chapters, repetition in the material (not sure why the editors didn’t edit that) and new ways of leading. This is definitely a great read…which reminds me, I need to go finish some stuff. I leave you with the following comparison chart from Friedman’s thoughts
|Leaders influence followers for identification or emulation||Leaders greatest impact is about how they affect the emotional processes in the relationship system|
|Successful leadership understands the needs of their followers||Leader’s primary job is understanding his or herself|
|Communication is reliant on how we articulate our word choices||Communication is reliant on emotional variables (direction, anxiety, distance)|
|Leaders achieve consensus when they seek it||Consensus is not the goal; the goal is to raise the maturity of our followers by conforming to their strengths|
|Hard work creates stress||Responsibility for the relationship of others creates stress|
|Hierarchy is more about power||Hierarchy is inherent in protoplasm; it’s natural|
6 responses to “Don’t Get Punked”
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Great blog! As we have read and listened this semester have you come to the conclusion that who we are is vital to how we lead? I find it intriguing that business principles can translate to the non profit world of church not for measurement but for the mindset and thinking.
Do you ever feel that you get “punked” in your leadership role?
Hi Garfield. You mention chapter 6 and the need to pursue differentiation. This chapter really got to me. How have you been successful in “maintaining a safe space” between you and the systems you lead? I can imagine directing and conducting music requires proactive boundary-making.
Great blog! I really liked your perspective and depth of analysis of the book, it brought out things I did not see. As well your connection to NFL and local Church was spot on, I too agree that Cutler is NOT a leader. Over all do you agree with Friedman’s summary of the problem of leadership?
Thanks Garfield for an interesting and vivid blog!
I like your title”Don’t get Punked”, it seem that our political community “punked” each other daily.
Excellent premise of the book, as we view the evident today of the emotional process. It has eroded and devalued the individuation necessary for effective in our political system today… result is displayed by our candidates.
Example: How they value each other, valuing others makes self-value soar. It also carries substantial social reward; showing value tends to invoke reciprocity and cooperation, while devaluing inspires reciprocity and resistance. The evident of the book is prevalent in our leadership in the 21st century.
Greater than Great blog! Rose Maria
Excellent blog—exemplifying your creative and intellectual genius in your presentation of Friedman’s key points and new perspectives for leadership. Friedman explains that differentiation is a direction in life rather than a state of being. (Friedman 183). As a leader in a multisite community of believers, how is your self-differentiation able to maintain a non-anxious presence in the face of others who are anxious?
Great insight on this post. You quoted: “data over decisiveness” from Friedman. Do you see Christian leaders drifting toward this?
Friedman’s “self-differentiation” turns leaders into what can be perceived as aggressive. Historically, how have you perceived leaders in your sphere of Influence?