In 1983, Apple launched its computer Lisa, and the last project Jobs worked on before he was let go. Jobs released Lisa with a nine-page ad in the New York Times spelling out the computer’s technical features. It was nine pages of geek talk nobody outside NASA was interested in. The computer bombed. When Jobs returned to the company after running Pixar, Apple became customer-centric, compelling, and clear in their communication. The first campaign he released went from nine pages in the New York Times to just two words on billboards all over America: Think Different. Edwin Friedman, In Failure of Nerve, like Job’s, encourages us to think differently about leadership.
The late Edwin Friedman, according to Bob Thune, “served for 20 years as a pulpit rabbi and for 25 years as an organizational consultant & family therapist in the Washington DC area. He also served in the Lyndon Johnson administration. His unique experience allowed him to observe leadership – and its problems – in the family, the church, and the political sphere”. In thinking differently about leadership Friedman said, “leaders do not fail because they lack information or skill, but because they lack the nerve to stand firm in the midst of other people’s emotional anxiety and reactions”, he continues as says, “leadership is essentially an emotional process rather than a cognitive phenomenon”. Understanding this different approach to leadership leads one to then learn how to be a “well-differentiated leader” which at its most basic level is one who is has “clarity about his or her life own life goals, and, therefore, someone who is less likely to become lost in the anxious emotional processes swirling about them”. If leadership at a foundational level is about interacting with people, then it is no wonder this book spoke to me at so many levels. For me, Friedman, in many ways, cuts through the clutter of technique in leadership theory and gets to the root of how to operate in the systems of relationships (organizations, families, churches).
Friedman’s ideas speak well into my research as the data and personal experience continue to paint a clear picture that, the emerging generation, is one of, if not the most anxious generations ever. Leadership that only demonstrates technique will not be enough to impact and influence millennials nor gen z. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard business professor, in researching how business leaders can make a positive first impression says there are two questions people subconsciously ask when meeting someone new: “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” In her book Presence, Cuddy explains that human beings value trust so highly; it’s only after trust is established that a person begins to consider getting to know us further. I think one of the critical components of leadership is trust, and therefore learning how to be trusting with our presence becomes paramount. In closing, Friedman highlights this point while in talking about the position a leader must take that will enable them to “go with the flow” while also “taking the lead” he writes,
The key to that positioning is the leaders own self-differentiation, by which I mean his or her capacity to be a non-anxious presence, a challenging presence, a well-defined presence, and a paradoxical presence. Differentiation is not about being courses, manipulative, reactive, pursuing, or invasive, but being rooted in the leaders own sense of self rather than focus on that of his or her followers.
I would add/change that as Spirit-led leaders, being rooted in Christ and understanding our own sense of self, is the key.
 Don Miller, StoryBrand Live Seminar, Nashville, TN, 2019.
 Thune, Bob. “Summary: Edwin Friedman’s ‘A Failure of Nerve’ in 500 Words.” bobthune.com, June 21, 2016. http://www.bobthune.com/2016/06/summary-edwin-friedmans-a-failure-of-nerve-in-500-words/.
 Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, ed. Margaret M. Treadwell and Edward W. Beal (New York: Seabury Books, 2007), 13.
 Ibid., 14.
 Amy Cuddy, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (New York: Little Brown and Company, 2015), 71–72. Miller, Donald. Building a StoryBrand (p. 227). HarperCollins Leadership. Kindle Edition.