Edwin H. Friedman, in his book A Failure of Nerve, focuses on discussing the root causes and underlying mechanics of ‘failure of nerve’ in leaders. He approached leadership from a different direction of perspective and explained that “leadership is essentially an emotional process rather than a cognitive phenomenon.” While many leadership books discourses on building skill sets, techniques, and leadership characteristics, Friedman expounds on the foundation of a leader’s presence. Throughout the book, Friedman reinforces the importance of a well-differentiated leader who can navigate many institutions’ functioning and survival climates. This book presents a clear vision for establishing a well-differentiated leadership by discussing unhealthy emotional systems and intricate connections of the past within families and organizations.
The book discusses many vital elements of well-differentiation of leadership. One of the critical things I began to reflect on was the idea of chronic anxiety in a system. Friedman writes, “Chronic anxiety is systematic; it is deeper and more embracing than community nervousness. Rather than something that resides within the psyche of each one, it is something that can envelop, if not connect, people. It is a regressive emotional process that is quite different from the more familiar, acute anxiety we experience over specific concerns.” This type of chronic anxiety is prevalent in all organizations and societies because anxiety is tied to human relationships. One of the chronic symptoms of our generation is that anxiety is highlighted at all levels of society and age groups. The prevalent anxieties within individuals, married couples, families, corporate organizations, and churches are evident, genuinely systematic.
One of the chronic anxieties that I saw growing up in an KAIC (Korean American immigrant church) was the constant introduction of programs and failures of programs to revitalize the church. The church leadership often brought in guest speakers and a particular program that would help the church jump to another level of growth. People tend to like it in the beginning stage, and it seems to be working because it is new, but over time it faded away as people who participated in the program were somewhat left disappointed and unchanged. The author’s illustrations reminded me of many past experiences where leadership led out of anxiety and uncertainty. Friedman’s insightful perspective on defining chronic anxiety is crucial for a leader to understand and help others grow, whether an individual, a family, or an organization. Jesus embodies this kind of leadership where the peace of God is revealed as Jesus abides through the storms of frantic chronic nervousness. Unhealthy leaders will continue to fail in perceiving and, owing to their chronic anxieties within their team and organization, will continue to search for better programs. But a more well-differentiated and healthy leadership will identify and work with real issues that are causing those problematic anxieties within the team and organization. Jesus not only drew closer to the epicenter of anxiety, but he was also able to bring an overflow of calming presence and lead His disciples out of the storms.
 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), 14.
 Friedman and Steinke, A Failure of Nerve, 65.