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

If Books Were Rated By My Kindle Highlights, This One’s A Winner

Written by: on November 8, 2018

No book from our LGP program has garnered more highlights on my Kindle reader than Edwin Friedman’s Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix.  If our books were rated by the number of times that I used my Kindle highlighter tool, then this one is a standout winner. Perhaps no book in our studies has made me read and re-read as often as this one. I am still not sure if I completely understand the term “differentiation of self” [1] but I am connecting with our author on deeper levels of understanding, for sure. Our Cohort counselors are probably STOKED about this book!

I read impressive reviewers like Brian D. Majors and Steven J. Sandage, both PhD’s from Bethel Seminary who wrote in the Biola University Journal of Psychology and Theology, [2] that “differentiation of self” is connected largely to Christian maturity and spiritual formation. I now more fully understand why this book is not just fluff in your dryer vent.

The first eye-opening statement that rocked my world was,

“With families, I stopped creating encyclopedias of data about all their issues and began to search instead for the member with the greatest capacity to be a leader as I have defined it. That person generally turned out to be the one who could express himself or herself with the least amount of blaming and the one who had the greatest capacity to take responsibility for his or her own emotional being and destiny.” [3] (bold mine)

Friedman asserted that data gathering and techniques were not as important as discerning if a person had the capacity to be decisive. [4] (bold again mine). Wow, something in me resonated with “decisiveness”. Couple that with “the least amount of blaming” while “taking responsibility” and it is no wonder why this book is a keeper!

I also felt connected to the author’s writing on the five aspects of chronic anxiety: reactivity, herding, blaming, a quick-fix mentality, and lack of leadership. [5] Then he backed up this statement by saying lack of leadership was the one the other four stem from, and is the one that contributes the most to the other four! Bam, he is speaking our leadership language LGP8.

Are we biased because we love leadership concepts, or were we convinced this book was a hall-of-fame winner because our Lead Mentor said this book is one of his personal favorites? Maybe, but this author Friedman puts meat on the bones of his research, and backs it up with torpedos like these two,

“Living with crisis is a major part of leaders’ lives. The crises come in two major varieties: (1) those that are not of their own making but are imposed on them from outside or within the system, and (2) those that are actually triggered by the leaders through doing precisely what they should be doing.” [6]

“Stuck systems cannot become unstuck simply by trying harder.” [7]

Yowza, those got me! It seems in my new job I move from one crisis to another. With 107 pastors who I now serve, there is always several that are in major struggles. I am a chief firefighter, referee, and conflict resolver for 30 churches, 2 camps and a Bible College. Each day brings a new set of challenges…and trying harder is not the solution. Prayer helps, Scripture helps, teamwork helps, but rarely does “trying harder”.

That is why I will never forget this book as it talked about THE SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE [8] being vitally important for successful leaders. I know I am speaking to the choir about adventure because obviously we all have a adventurous spirit, or we would not have chosen this particular DMin program. It would have been easier to stay in one location for three years, rather than globe trotting as we experience new cultures and even newer paradigms. We have eaten exotic foods, taken gondola rides and boat excursions, listened to stellar experts on racial reconciliation and Asian economics, and I for one am JACKED about it. I am so grateful for the opportunities we have been given to learn in an adventurous environment, with lovable classmates, under the tutelage of caring profs and advisors, all the while growing closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There is one picture in my mind that illustrates the leadership potential of one of our classmates. I will not use her name yet, but you already know who she is. She illustrates well this successful spirit of adventure. Not only is she a Pastor, she is also a seminary employee in charge of a million bucks of leadership dollars. She travels the world with us without batting an eye, even towing a two month old along for the journey, and somehow does not miss a beat. I don’t want to blow sunshine in her face, but she is a rockstar in my opinion. Trish, you are an inspiration and there is no such thing as FAILURE OF NERVE in you.

I am thankful we get to learn together LGP8! And oh yes, here is a picture of my adventurous wife, from last week!

[1] Friedman, Edwin H., Margaret M. Treadwell, and Edward W. Beal. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. New York: Church Publishing, 2017. Kindle Edition. Loc 646.

[2] Majerus, Brian D. and Steven J. Sandage. Differentiation of Self and Christian Spiritual Maturity: Social Science and Theological Integration. Journal of Psychology and Theology,Volume 38. Issue 1. 41-51.

[3] Friedman. Loc 509.

[4] Ibid., Loc 608.

[5] Ibid., Loc 603.

[6] Ibid., Loc 658.

[7] Ibid., Loc 755.

[8] Ibid., Loc 694.


About the Author

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

10 responses to “If Books Were Rated By My Kindle Highlights, This One’s A Winner”

  1. M Webb says:

    I like your “stoked” comment and ethnographic image for your opening remarks about Freidman’s leadership book. Yes, it is a bold book when compared to the modernism we have been reading and experiencing in many of our studies. Who would think that a leader could actually make a decision, take responsibility, accept accountability, and not blame it on someone or something else?
    Jay, you don’t have to understand “well-differentiated” to be one! And you are my friend, an excellent example of a servant-leaders who is differentiated, “Montana Style!”
    Stand firm and congrats to the Wife who knows how to bring home the venison.
    M. Webb

  2. Great heartfelt post Jay! Yes this counselor was pretty stoked about this book and it resonated in many areas. If anyone’s nerves have been put to the test this past year I would say yours have the most. You have handled your son’s issues with amazing strength and your vulnerability and honesty have been inspiring. Yes Trisha is a rockstar, but you are definitely in the rock band as well 🙂

  3. SO glad you appreciated Friedman. This is one of my all time favorite leadership books as well. You spoke about how you are applying it in ministry, but do you also find insights for parenting? It was a game-changer for me in parenting young-adult children!

  4. Hello Jay,

    I, too, really appreciated this book, and it definitely ranks as one of my favourites so far in our studies. Not only can it be applied to our ministry/organizational lives, but it has much to say about how we engage with our families as well. As you know, I’m dealing with one particular relationship, and the lessons learned about healthy differentiation are very pertinent and give me courage to challenge conduct that perpetuates the unhealthy status quo.

  5. Dan Kreiss says:


    Always good stuff from you and your energy about this particular book is contagious.

    I believe that you have immediate opportunity to apply this work, both in your new role with the church and in your relationship with your son. I too have much to think about in terms of my family relations. Your reading of this work should influence your responses in both of those contexts so I wonder how you see yourself applying this work to each. Both of them hard and acknowledging that at our age we are pretty well entrenched in our leadership habits (as fathers and pastors) – how do you think your excitement about this book may inform you going forward in each context?

    Roomy – I’m praying for both – your ministry and your relationship with your son.

  6. Trisha Welstad says:

    Jay, I really enjoyed this book too and have been re-reading the book and searching other websites on family systems theory since writing this week’s post, which is unusual for me. Your highlights on least amount of blaming, taking responsibility and being decisive are so helpful in remembering the key points to being well-differentiated.

    Thanks for your kindness to me. I think it is extremely challenging to be differentiated. Although I love adventure, and having my mom in Hong Kong made it so much easier to feel adventurous, I will say my anxiety since having children has risen immensely and effected relationships in ways I wish it hadn’t. Honestly, this year has been so hard I can’t really even write about the lack of differentiation in my own life. It’s too raw and the internet is too vulnerable of a space for me. Thus, my keen interest in this topic and the need to care for self because of the influence I have on others, especially those closest to me.

  7. Great post, Jay!

    As I looked through your corresponding pictures, I was brought back to our conversation in Hong Kong. I found it so fascinating that your family had been hunting for generations and used this gift to provide for your families. March for our Lives was still resonating within many conversations throughout the country. Everyone was approaching this topic from varied perspectives and reactions. However, I loved hearing about how your family used all the animal and created a place of hospitality for those around you. It reminded me of how Native Americans utilized all parts of the animal and used their tools and gifts to share their resources. It gave me a completely different view on gun control.

    Friedman suggests, “The effect on leaders of this widespread demand for a quick fix is that it turns from professionals into hacks” (Friedman 2007, 95). After reading Friedman, I began to wonder what America would look like if we really listened to one another and understood the reasoning behind our reactions. For too long, we’ve believed that there’s only two parties, but there are multiple familial background, viewpoints, convictions and ideas. Friedman’s text should be a staple in every church, business and political office, because it reminds us that laws and values are formed by people – not groupings, but people with varied perspectives and backgrounds.

    What has surprised you the most when you realize the context of people’s reactions?

  8. Shawn Hart says:

    Jay, this was a great motivational response to this reading; it is your optimism in so many things that I believe probably makes you the leader that you are. For what it is worth, I also highlighted that first quote; it reminded me of David in his stand-off with Nathan regarding the whole Bathsheba incident: Here David was getting slapped in the face with the sins he had just committed and instead of making excuses, he said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13) No excuses, no blaming, just accepting of responsibility. Is it any wonder why he was referred to as a man after God’s own heart? True leadership sets the example for others to follow; we did not learn from David’s failure as much as we learned from his repentance.

    So Jay, I am curious…was there anything you did not like about this reading or the views depicted by Friedman?

  9. Kyle Chalko says:

    Awesome1 what a post! I Agree about Trish!

    So in your role as a superintendent, who are the most secure leaders in the group of pastors you lead and how will you invest in them the most?

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