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

Go beyond emphathy, Be a responsible leader~

Written by: on February 3, 2022

Edwin H. Friedman, in his book A Failure of Nerve, examines the connections between rapid solutions in an age of anxiety to well-differentiated leadership. According to his lifetime research and experience in social psychology, he concluded that a well-differentiated leadership would bring progress and healing to any broken relationships, families, company, and society. According to Friedman, the function of a leader is to provide a “regulation through his or her non-anxious, self-defined presence.”[1] In any personal relationships and corporate organizations, the system of interactions will always involve a relational phenomenon between the leadership and the followers. As I read through this book this time, I got to engage with the contents in chapter four – survival in a hostile environment.


I just came back from a mission trip to Bukoba, Tanzania, with three other pastors. In the short period of two and a half weeks, we covered a lot of ministry with just the four of us. As a team, we were able to teach seminary students, ran VBS and youth programs, went around all over northeast Tanzania, and set up ten house churches partnering with seminary students. The host was a missionary couple named Helena and Truth Chung. Helena and Truth went out as a missionary to Bukoba after retiring and living in silicon valley for over 30 years. They have been there for just about five years now, and they are in their mid-60s. As I read through this chapter, I reflected on the emotional barrier that Friedman discusses in chapter four. From the stories I heard from Helena and Truth, they experienced growth in their leadership as they learned to survive through a hostile environment. Friedman argues about the great myth that “feeling deeply for others increases their ability to mature and survive; its corollary is that the effort to understand another should take precedence over the endeavor to make one’s own self clear.”[2] The missionary couple shared with our team about their empathy issues and lots of emotional struggles for the first two years when they first arrived in Bukoba. They first saw overwhelming essential needs such as water, food, clothing, and education needed for the people in the villages.


The first two years were spent trying to provide and give to those essential needs, but after about two years, they could see beyond tiring work trying to meet the never ending needs. They came to a difficult realization that just giving and doing mercy work harmed the missionaries themselves and the people in the villages. They learned that many viruses and malignant cells were forming out of their empathy work if they weren’t careful. As they shared about changing their mission strategy to prioritize bringing healthy relationships to the village, I observed a perfect example of well-differentiated leadership. Helena and Truth Chung were becoming a more significant resource to the hostile mission field by offering a “healthy dose of self, the capacity to take responsibility for one’s condition, resiliency, self-regulation of anxious reactivity, a varied repertoire of responses.”[3] In our world that demands quick fixes and shouts for greater empathy to pain and problems, the well-differentiated leaders must stand their ground to provide a safe host of responsibility and restoration of relationships within a family and organizations.

[1]  Edwin H. Friedman and Peter Steinke, A Failure of Nerve, Revised Edition: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. 10th Anniversary edition. (New York: Church Publishing, 2017), 160.


[2] Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, 143.

[3] Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, 161.

About the Author


Jonathan Lee

President of Streamside Ministry Lead Pastor of EM @ San Jose Korean Presbyterian Church in Sunnyvale, CA

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