DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Control, Really?

Written by: on September 22, 2020

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future but from wanting to control it.”[1] Where does this need for control come from? Coach and motivational speaker Tony Robbins states, the need for control comes from self-doubt and fear. People seek control to get a temporary relief from anxiety and to find assurance that their life will be okay.[2] There is no question that in order to get through life there needs to be a heathy sense of control, otherwise we would never accomplish many of our goals or passions in life. D’Souza and Renner in Not Doing explain that control is a way to relieve powerlessness, avoiding the idea of not knowing and trying to reach a level of certainty.[3] So, what, if anything, is the potential answer. According to Edwin Friedman in his book The Failure of Nerve, he discusses the importance of becoming a differentiated leader. Differentiated leaders maintain a presence of non-anxiety amidst anxiety. They have the ability to make a stand despite the drama of the moment and are willing to say “I” when everyone else wants to say “we”. They are clear about their personal values and goals. They take ownership of their own emotional wellbeing and refuse to blame others or the circumstances around them. They can also cease being part of the emotional rollercoaster.[4] In other words, differentiated leaders deal with their self-doubts and personal fears, not buying into the anxiety around them.

As a father I didn’t pay my kids to do chores or to make their beds. Right or wrong, to me these were a part of being a responsible member of the family. This may very well have been due to being raised on a ranch with the expectation that ranch chores were part of our livelihood. As they entered high school, I paid them to read books. Not just any book, but books I chose. Books on leadership and Christian living. They were required to read the book, give me a one-page report and discuss the book with me. I gave them $35 to $45 a book depending on the size. They read things like Maxwell’s Failing Forward and Cook’s Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness. Now that I am older, I wonder what books I would pay them to read if they were back in high school. Would I continue to focus on leadership and Christian living or move them more toward an understanding of being emotionally aware? As I continue to watch each one of my adult children interact throughout their adult lives, I am amazed as to what stuck and what didn’t. During this time of COVID 19 there is one thing that is obvious. They could all benefit in becoming more differentiated as individuals.

I try to keep in mind this journey in Christ is one of faith and not sight (2 Cor. 5:7).  I tell myself that the book of Hebrews reminds me that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. Meanwhile, I focus on finding the balance between having a healthy sense of control, becoming a more differentiated person and letting the future unfold in Gods timing not mine.

                  [1] D’Souza, Steven and Diana Renner, Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action. (New York: LID Publishing, 2018), 71, quote attributed to Kahlil Gibran


                  [3] D’Souza, Steven and Diana Renner, 72

                  [4] Friedman, Edwin H., The Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Revised Edition (New York: Church Publishing, 2017), 195

About the Author


Greg Reich

Entrepreneur, Visiting Adjunct Professor, Arm Chair Theologian, Leadership/Life Coach, married 39 years, father and grandfather. Jesus follower, part time preacher! Handy man, wood carver, carpenter and master of none. Outdoor enthusiast, fly fisherman, hunter and all around gun nut.

10 responses to “Control, Really?”

  1. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    What are your growth edges in regard to becoming differentiated? Which differentiated characteristics (Friedman, 183) come easier to you and which are more challenging? What internal, emotional work are you being invited to do to move toward increased differentiation?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      I must first apologize if my response doesn’t answer your question due to p183 in my book talks about Political Theorists the enlightenment and federalism. I will default to p194-5 in my book which discusses differentiation and what it means.

      Since differentiation has more do with a person emotional being and not necessarily their behavior I will focus on the emotional challenges I see in me as a leader. I am finding the greatest challenge is taking a stand in a intense emotional system like the church in America. It has been my recent experience that I am instantly shot down and categorized if I take a conservative leaning on some of the issues the church is facing and shot down if I lean toward a more liberal view on other views.
      As far as the aspects of differentiation that I believe I have a descent level of competence in I would say that I do well in taking responsibility for my emotions and don’t blame others. I am a big proponent of each individual owning there stuff. I am very clear on my personal and spiritual convictions and values. But if I looked hard at the list in chapter 8 showing the difference between a poorly differentiated leader and a good differentiated leader I would admit I have a long way to go.
      For me I believe owning ones own stuff including their responses and stop blaming others is important to becoming more differentiated. I also think refusing to being part of the emotional domino environment that surrounds us is also important.

  2. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Greg, you mentioned in our Zoom chat last week about how you stepped away from a lucrative career with six figures into a more modest living. I can imagine during that time it was difficult to give up the control and security you had at that time. Can you share more about what that process of giving up control was like for you? When you reflect on that decision now, what do you think you learned because of that decision?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      I will admit I did not leave my 27 year career as well as I would have liked. My leaving was less than stellar and wasn’t well planned out. It was more of a process of self imploding spiritually and working on saving a marriage that was slowly crumbling. I did not like who I allowed myself to become and neither did those really close to me. I would say the greatest challenge was dealing with the feelings of shame. Control in many ways was ripped away, not willingly yielded. Even after 13 years I think I am still learning about the process of yielding control and how to take life in stride when all financial dreams and plans have changed drastically. For me the greatest lessons from this process are that God cares more about my character than He does my comfort. Small character flaws can cause huge ramification in life if not dealt with. Also security isn’t all about money but more about internal fortitude, contentment and flexibility.

  3. mm John McLarty says:

    “…differentiated leaders deal with their self-doubts and personal fears, not buying into the anxiety around them.”

    From your (and Friedman’s) pencil to God’s ears!

    Unfortunately right now, it seems that our society in general has rewarded those leaders who allow us to justify our fears and keep us dependent on those who we feel can best keep us safe. It’s a vicious cycle and because it’s rooted deep within our emotions, we’re almost totally unaware at how deeply we are being manipulated.

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      I think the world has succumbed to the squeaky wheel concept that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The problem is that grease is often just a quick fix for a deeper problem. eventually the squeaky wheel needs to be replaced. Friedman explains that one sign of regression is the quick fix mentality. Instant everything. We buy into everything from instant coffee to instant gratification without concern of cost or damages. This same mentality is part of the church. We demanding instant holiness of others but instant grace for ourselves.

  4. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Thanks for this, Greg.

    I really appreciate the idea of control as a repsonse to the anxiety generated by feeling afraid or powerless. And that, from Friedman’s perpsective, the differentiated leader is one who can accept that self-doubt and uncertainty and fear are natural phenomenon.

    It seems that we’ve been groomed to avoid doubt, uncertainty, and fear rather than embrace them as natural experiences. Perhaps the journey toward becoming a differentiated leader will require us naming those three realities and choosing to remain in them rather than retreat from them. Should we reamin, doubt, uncertainty, and fear seem to be the very incubators that could transfrom us into non-anxious leaders.

  5. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Greg, what’s your top 10 list of books each youth should read?

    • mm Greg Reich says:

      Wow! There are so many! It also depends on the focused approach. Please note the following are more oriented around leadership and personal health, as well as, being off the top of my head. Most of these are personal foundation building blocks style books.

      Spiritual Leadership, Blackaby (focuses on discovering God’s vision and leading by a biblical design)

      Experiencing God, Blackaby (a practical look at calling and a reminder calling is about fitting into Gods plans not allowing Him to fit into ours)

      Plan B, Pete Wilson (a quick read using biblical narrative and real life stories to show failure is ok)

      Failing Forward, Maxwell (failure is a fact of life and a stepping stone to success)

      Talent is Never Enough. Maxwell (believe in you self and personal mission matters)

      360 Degree Leadership, Maxwell (most of us will never be the top leader so knowing how to influence others is vital)

      The Hour that Changes the World. Eastman (the most practical book on prayer I know)

      Primal Leadership, Coleman (anintroduction to Emotional Intelligence)

      The DNA of Relationships, Smalley (though oriented toward marriage the knowledge of the core fears that drive us and the concept of “power of one” is powerful)

      The Truth About Us, Brant Hansen (a light hearted read on the brokeness of humanity and the value of humility)

      Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness, Jerry Cook (a good look a the idea that broken people can help heal broken people)

      Other books,
      Overcoming the Dark side of Leadership, Rima
      Put Your Dream to the Test, Maxwell

      Some of these may be a bit old school but are good food for thought and discussion into much deeper issues. I am sure you could come up with a much more relevant list but these have served me well when I mentored young adults.

  6. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Taking notes. Thank you for sharing some of your stories as a parent!

    Encouraging a life lived after Christ in the world is the best life to encourage though, not necessarily the easiest life. That is, if our hope is integrity to His path for us.

    Perhaps, an easier life could be if we were to level ourselves emotionally and super self-differentiate? I wonder if the Pharisees would have considered Jesus and His followers as emotionally intelligent and well-differentiated?

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