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

Presence…Leadership by me!

Written by: on October 13, 2016


This engaging book by Edwin H Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of Quick Fix has been a thought provoking read.   It seems he could have written this book over this past year. Leadership issues abound today and no one is able to define what leadership should look like now!  He is very down to earth and takes the time to walk through his thoughts, completely defining his concepts of  leadership.  His thoughts on leadership are unique and have been recorded in a very exact way.  The reorientation that he proposes is given in an outline form at the end of chapter one.  I found this to be a very helpful tool in reading this material and preparing to make application of it.

  • Adventure: Imagination is emotional, rather than cerebral
  • Anxiety:  is between people, rather than in the mind
  • Data: The capacity to be decisive is more important than (data) being as informed as possible
  • Empathy: We should foster ‘responsibility for one’s own being and destiny’ over feelings, sensitivity, and rights
  • Self: Rather than being a selfishness that destroys community, a leader’s well-defined self is essential to the integrity of the community (presence )
  • Models of Leadership: Reality is about relationship, rather than the nature of things and we should focus on differentiating self, rather than motivating others
  • Stress:  results from one’s position in relational triangles, rather than hard work
  • Crisis and sabotage:  can be signs of success
  • The Past: The past resides in the present and isn’t merely a prelude to it (50)

At the conclusion of this chapter there is a very insightful sentence that challenges all leaders to set out into a new direction,

“For those who seek quick fix answers to their leadership problems, such reframing may seem an impractical waste of time: but my experience has been that nothing is more relevant to the pragmatic than the way we tend to think!” (50)
How we think?  Can we change the way we think?  Yes, we can do that.  One of the places he really challenges us to think differently is about data. We are a metrics driven church and society.  We love to collect data and to have it in our hands.  I am not so sure that we do a great job using it to its greatest potential.  The author points out two very important facets to data that I perceive as really insightful: the myth of data and technique.

The first is that, if we just knew more, we would be able to fix anything.

The second is that, if we fail, it is because we didn’t use the right technique. (98 )

These two concepts are incredibly powerful. Just because we can collect data doesn’t mean that it will point our leadership in the right direction.  Maybe our decision making ability is more important than all the data we can find.   An individual being the leader with presence guiding change may be the most powerful way forward.

Having spent so much time involved with teenagers and youth ministry, I thought the application of this thought process  brings change to parenting that is truly spot on.  Friedman observes that there is no evidence that the most successful parents are the ones with the most knowledge of the latest ‘data’ and ‘techniques’ of child-rearing.

“Parenting is no different from any other kind of “managing.” The crucial issues in raising children have far less to do with proper technique than with the nature of the parents’ presence and the type of emotional processes they engender.” (113)

 Nurturing growth always follows two principles. One is: Stay out of its way; you cannot “grow” another by will or technique. But the second is: Do not let it “overgrow” you. (144)

Balance seems to be the conclusive part of parenting and leadership.   Presence keeps coming up as the vital ingredient to change and to healthy relationships.  So if presence is the main things how does it affect other relationships?   This was addressed in a shape: triangles.

Triangles really challenged me.  How they form and how they work.   (somewhere in the back of my mind I can’t help but think trinity)

To summarise it all:

Emotional triangles follow a few straightforward rules:

  • They form out of people’s discomfort with each other.
  • They are self-preserving and resist all attempts to change them.
  • They interlock with and reinforce other emotional triangles.
  • They make it hard for people to alter their patterns of thought and behaviour.
  • They transmit a system’s stress to its most responsible or most focused member (206).

How often has this been the thing within a work place, a church staff or within a family that confuses and emotionally derails people?

So much information, that can be used.


The takeaway from this book is that I want to be a New World leader instead of an Old World leader.  My summation of this whole idea of leadership by presence and by strong decision is recorded here.

  1. Be!  Your way or “presence” affects the emotional processes in the relationship system.
  2. Do!  Communication depends on emotional variables such as direction, distance and anxiety.  Even within being responsible for relationships of others you must still do.
  3. Lead! Hierarchy is a natural systems phenomenon rooted in the nature of protoplasm.  (194)

To conceptually define leadership around the human phenomenon, (family system) is a complete paradigm shift.   What this family systems model did was to shift the unity of observation from a person to a network and to focus on network principles that were universal rather than specific to culture. (198)

This new way of thinking and new way of leading is what leads to change.  There is a clear path to change leadership within a church or really any organization based on the three principles because they are universal.    So universal leadership is within reach if we are able to navigate all that goes with the family system.  This is not always easy but is does make some issues of management and leadership much more possible.

This has really challenged me.  I believe I lead by presence more than I do by position. (Really nice to now have a definition for what in the world I am doing)   It is just nice to be able to define how I do what I do.  Sometimes words that have been redefined and re-contextualized, brings clarity and pin point accuracy to where a leader is going and how he is leading.    This book has really truly brought about another level of language for leadership.

Presence is something that I want to experience.  When I am in His presence there is life change so this concept makes perfect sense to me.  In just a short time in His presence things that were just a few minutes ago impossible, how have a solution or a resolve.   Sometimes just being in His presence brings peace and clarity about complicated situations that humanly can’t work out but if I follow His lead of being, doing and leading, I to can bring about change.    Can my presence reflect my time spent in His presence?  Within this family system is my presence enough to lead and bring direction?

As I see it defined:

Presence…. Leadership by me.



About the Author


Kevin Norwood

My name is Kevin Norwood and I have been in youth ministry for the past 34 years. On February 14th, 1994, 27 years ago, we moved to Owasso OK and wow what a ride. My wife, Ann, is an RN and specializes in Clinical Documentation working from home. Maci is a my 21 year old daughter and she loves and shows horses. Her horse's name is Charlie. She is currently working with animals and loves to go on trail rides with her horse. London is my 10 year old son and he keeps me young. He absolutely loves life!! Golfing, baseball and Hawaii is his latest adventures. He skied for the first time in Colorado this year. I have started a coaching business for pastors at www.kevinnorwood.com and it is exciting the doors that God is opening. I earned my Doctorate in Leadership and Global Perspectives from George Fox on Feb 10, 2018.

7 responses to “Presence…Leadership by me!”

  1. Hi Kevin. It sounds like you got a lot out of this book. I did too. We have a lot in common because we spend so much time with teens. A couple of questions for you.
    1. I like this idea of leading and taking time and no such thing as a quick fix. But the reality of our context with teens is that we have a set amount of time before they move on. How do we reconcile this?
    2. Triangles Triangles Triangles. I too can’t help but think about the trinity. In another triangle topic though, do you see a triangle between you and youth ministry and ______? If so, how do you manage it?

  2. Aaron

    I will reply back to you with a thought from our summer reading: deep work instead of shallow work. I have cultivated my language to take relationships deeper quicker by not spending so much shallow time. Every off sight moment I have I don’t waste. Tell me five things about you I don’t know. One word question game. I always have a survey that leads to engaged conversation.

    Tris es. Me my leaders and students. Me my assistant and my leaders. Me my students and parents. Me myself and I forcing myself to grow in communication, language and passion

    Me my wife and my kids

    Me my pastor and my assistant

    Me my pastor and the whole church

    Stink I am stuck in triangles!!!!

    I hate geometry but I love life!! It is s choice I believe!

  3. Phil Goldsberry says:


    This was a great book….and a great post on the book! The metrics part messed with me. It was convicting because I love to see the “numbers”. Could it be that Friedman was cautioning us to look for the right numbers?

    The “triangle” analogy….what was your personal takeaway? Was it over simplification or was it true insight?


    • Kevin Norwood says:

      I believe the triangle thing is a reality. Some things are truly just between you and another individual. In ministry though there is usually a triangle of some kind. Outside forces always influence what is happening.


  4. Garfield Harvey says:

    Great concept about His presence. As a worship leader, we often challenge our music team that reflects being in His presence. The reality is that effective corporate worship is dependent on our effective individual worship. We should never try to leave His presence but people should also never wonder if we were ever in His presence. This book challenged me to living a more reflective life of His presence that will be evident in every area of my life.


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