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

Forged in Resistance

Written by: on October 12, 2022

Tod Bolsinger is a professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary with a focus on congregational and leadership formation. Relying heavily on the teachings of Friedman and Heifetz, Tempered Resilience is a leadership book that primarily targets Christian leaders undergoing organizational change. He writes, 

They had become so focused on the aches and pains in the system that they had been thrown off course by the complaints. They had stopped supplying vision, or had burned out fighting the resistance; they had ceased to be the strength in the system. In short, they had forgotten to lead. (italics authors)[1]

According to Bolsinger, leadership is about adapting to change in the face of resistance. Using the analogy of tempered steel, Bolsinger believes leaders are forged through a process. This process involves:

  • Working: Leaders are formed in leading.
  • Heating: Strength is forged in self-rejection.
  • Holding: Vulnerable leadership requires relational security.
  • Hammering: Stress makes a leader.
  • Hewing: Resilience takes practice.
  • Tempering: Resilience comes through a rhythm of leading and not leading.[2]

I found the following principles to be particularly helpful in thinking about leadership in any capacity:

  • Leadership is about diagnosing the problem. Leaning heavily on Heifetz and Linksy, Bolsinger asks,Is this problem something that an expert can solve or not? Is this something that requires us to apply a solution that already exists, or does it fall outside of our current knowledge and expertise and therefore will require learning (and usually result in loss)?”[3] A leader must be able to assess the problem before envisioning a solution.
  • We need leaders who demonstrate vulnerability. In part, this means leaders who know their limits. If something is beyond the expertise of a leader, good leadership requires a vulnerability to know when their leadership will not provide the needed solutions. Just the same, vulnerability requires risk and leaders willing to step into the gap, provide direction, and lead the people to a solution.[4]
  • Leadership is not meant to be done in isolation. It is best conducted as a communal affair. Bolsinger sites Stack’s commentary on Moses, who states,

Leaders need three kinds of support: (1) allies who will fight alongside them, (2) troops or teams to whom they can delegate, and (3) a soulmate or soulmates to whom they can confide their doubts and fears, who will listen without an agenda other than being a supportive presence, and who will give them the courage, confidence, and sheer resilience to carry on.[5]

  • A key practice of leadership is the art of Change is inevitable, but the solution is not necessarily casting a new vision “but reframing an original or enduring vision of the organization that allows everyone to see a new, compelling future for their beloved organization that is worth sacrifice and commitment.”[6]
  • Leadership is not a one-time accomplishment. Rather, it is a life-long rhythm of leading. Bolsinger writes, “Tempering again, is not a one-time plunge into a cold pool or a once-a-year vacation or retreat. It is a regular, repetitive process.”[7]
  • Leaders need to learn to submit. As Christian leaders, we first must learn to submit to God. Not only so, but also learning to submit to one another helps maintain a necessary humility essential to effective leadership. A pastor friend once asked me, “Eric, for the past number of years, you have been predominately in places of leadership. Where in your life are you learning to submit?” An excellent question that will remain with me throughout my leadership development.

On the heels of our Advance in Cape town, I cannot help but contemplate the demonstrated practices of learning, listening, looking, and lamenting by leaders such as Mandela, Tutu, Dr. Zondi, and many others we encountered. I am challenged to consider how I can continue to learn, remain curious, and deepen my understanding of the world around me. Rather than be quick to speak or offer an opinion, I see how I can grow in the art of listening – ask more questions and hear what is being said between the lines. May I have the eyes to see how God is at work in our community and world. Even when all seems lost, to not bow to the resistance, but continue to believe in a sovereign God who is actively at work to establish His kingdom. And finally, as I allow myself to hear and see the hardships endured, to lament. To feel the pain and suffering of those around me while knowing and believing that in the pathway of lament is an abundance of hope and joy in Him.

[1] Tod E. Bolsinger, Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 1.

[2] Ibid., 6.

[3] Ibid., 18.

[4] Ibid., 83.

[5] Ibid., 110.

[6] Ibid., 174.

[7] Ibid., 196.

About the Author


Eric Basye

Disciple, husband, and father, committed to seeking shalom.

8 responses to “Forged in Resistance”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Mr. Basye: Great blog post; very thoughtful. The section on leadership and how it is not something done in isolation but something done as a communal affair. My default setting is to figure it out on my own and this part of the book gave me some insight how to combat that tendency. Are you like that or do you mix it up?

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Eric, your post was such a great and easy read. In the section on leadership being communal – of the three areas Bolsinger mentioned, which proves to be the easiest for you and which is the hardest? Personally, I find the soulmate the biggest challenge. Outside of my wife, my dog, and guy who hired me, I find confiding a challenge.

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      Thanks Roy. Great question… COMMUNITY is a challenge for me. Interestingly, I am passionate about community and believe I do a good job of creating a culture of community (and inviting into community), but I often feel isolated and lonely. It is a challenge of leadership, I believe. However, like Moses, I am learning to lean on others, such a my wife, loved ones, mentors, etc. But it is a work in progress.

      • Kayli Hillebrand says:

        If I could chime in on this conversation, Eric, do you have any ideas of how you’ll change your strategies for developing community as you transition into a mostly remote role in the coming months?

        • mm Eric Basye says:

          Good question. As of right now, I don’t have an immediate answer. My first two thoughts are: 1) continue to maintain and develop community in our low-income community where we live (in fact, I hope and plan to facilitate a leadership class with the curriculum I am developing next fall); 2) develop a sense of community with my new co-workers (though a lot of this will be developed via distance). As to developing community with clients we serve, I think it will be important to be fully present, and to maintain some kind of relationship/connection even after working with the client. For example, I have recently been working with the founder of an organization that I coached last fall as I help them transition and find a new ED. I have enjoyed staying connected with them in this realm as an advocate and friend (beyond the consultant/client relationship).

  3. Elmarie Parker says:

    Hi Eric…thank you for your thoughtful post. I really appreciated the lessons and insights you took from Bolsinger–great summaries!

    Your focus on lament at the end of your post is profound. You mention hearing and seeing the hardships endured, and to lament them; and feeling the pain and suffering of those around you. I’m curious how you experience those actions as ways of entering into the suffering of those around you or if there is yet another step to be taken to enter into the suffering? And, if there is yet another step to be taken, how might that inform “…knowing and believing that in the pathway of lament is an abundance of hope and joy in Him?”

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      Good question. I imagine these thoughts I am about to share are by no means new to you. For me, it is the context of proximity and shared relationship. By living and working in the community, I not only see the “plight” of the community, but I feel the pain of my neighbors. Honestly, even as I write my heart and mind go to that space and it is painful, a deep sorrow that feels as though there is no consolation. At times, such “lament” moves me to a place of uncontrolled tears, other times despair and depression. It is in those moments, when my heart feels that most heavy, that I am reminded this is but a taste of the sorrow and the pain the Lord feels for his beloved. Such a reminder leaves me nowhere else to turn but Him, the giver of hope and joy. Thus, I petition and cry out.

      To be honest, I wish that was the state of my heart and mind most of the time, but I am far too selfish and self-absorbed. Too distracted by the business of my own life to see, feel, and experience the pain of others. O Lord, help me be more like You!

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