Before diving into the content of this book, let’s focus a little on the “why” portion of this book. The author believes there’s a “rampant sabotaging of leaders” that exist in our American society that creates a reactive atmosphere and a regressive mood that “contaminates” (that’s a strong word) decision-making. The author’s perspective is the evolution of his forty years of teaching and practicing in a spectrum of fields. He witnessed families and institutions “recycle their problems” for years and ignore innovative efforts. The bottom line is this, our society is reactive, so we choose leaders in our moments of anxiety, hoping they will create a quick fix to our problems, instead of clarity and decisiveness of our actions. American society is stuck in a ‘leadership rut.’
Imagine the legacy that we’ll desire or think we deserve to leave behind as leaders. Friedman died while writing ‘Failure of Nerve’ but his colleagues Ted Beal and Peggy Treadwell assembled his notes because they felt his work was worth reading. I know, it’s incomplete which is usually the case when we’re dead…we leave puzzle pieces behind, hoping someone can put them together (3 offshore accounts, two 401ks, a house in Hawaii and an overseas business).
The premise of this book focuses on two dimensions of American’s leadership, the conceptual and emotional process. The author believes that there’s an emotional process in our American society that affects ‘parents and presidents.’ Our denial of these emotional process tends to affect us in two ways:
- It “erodes and devalues the individuation necessary for effective ”
- It “influences the very way we conceptualize leadership problems to begin ”
The author in the second part of this book presented “new ways of understanding leadership that are applicable to all families and institutions, taking those emotional processes into account and emphasizing the importance of the leader’s own self-differentiation.” Here’s the deal, every culture has people who lead others with and to anxiety, but the anxiety is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the leader can stand his or her grounds without being ‘punked’ into reacting.
In the NFL, the quarterback is generally the head of the group, and this is the culture of the sport because the quarterback is generally “The Face” of the team. Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots (my home team) reminisce about his time playing for the Chicago Bears by stating, “Jay Cutler thought he was the leader of the team but everyone in the locker room knew he wasn’t.” If the coach or quarterback were to react prematurely because of an interview, it could ruin the chemistry of the team. Bennett was one of the best players in the game last year and while we’re grateful to have him on my Patriots team (yes, I take ownership), I can’t shake the thoughts of whether there was sabotage on his old team. Well, maybe I’m having an ‘emotional resistance’ that’s clouding my ability to see the adventure with Tom Brady, Martellus Bennett, and Rob Gronkowski playing together on the New England Patriots.
Envisioning myself among the next wave of global leaders, this book shows how easy it is for us to suggest that leadership rut varies among cultures and all solutions are different. However, Friedman shows that social science has its place, but experiences also show commonalities across cultures that are useful for positive change. In London, Shawn_________ reminded each listener that some secular business principles were applicable for the success of our religious institutions. Whether private or public sector, sabotage exists although some religious leaders try to camouflage the effects on their church congregations.
Exit or Way Out
The way out, rather, requires shifting our orientation to the way we think about relationships, from one that focuses on techniques that motivate others to one that focuses on the leader’s own presence and being. According to Friedman, when we compare modern America to Medieval Europe before the Renaissance, America is in the same place regardless of the perceived technological advancement because of the following three limitations:
- Focusing on data over decisiveness (and maturity)
- Regression to empathy over responsibility, and conformity to weakness over strength
- Confusion of self with selfishness
However, there is perceived hope because Friedman believes the following new relationship models will lift the off our limitations:
- New understandings of emotional processes within the organization
- New ways of observing and managing crises and sabotages.
- ” In the ‘Keystone Chapter’ (chapter 6), we are reminded as leaders to develop our self-differentiation and maintain a safe space between the systems we lead.
The author is clear that if we are to rise above our limitations, we need new relationship models to be functional. Leadership is always evolving, sometimes repetitive and sometimes require abruptness (in decision making). This book provides a healthy dose of all three because we saw abrupt endings of the unfinished chapters, repetition in the material (not sure why the editors didn’t edit that) and new ways of leading. This is definitely a great read…which reminds me, I need to go finish some stuff. I leave you with the following comparison chart from Friedman’s thoughts
|Leaders influence followers for identification or emulation||Leaders greatest impact is about how they affect the emotional processes in the relationship system|
|Successful leadership understands the needs of their followers||Leader’s primary job is understanding his or herself|
|Communication is reliant on how we articulate our word choices||Communication is reliant on emotional variables (direction, anxiety, distance)|
|Leaders achieve consensus when they seek it||Consensus is not the goal; the goal is to raise the maturity of our followers by conforming to their strengths|
|Hard work creates stress||Responsibility for the relationship of others creates stress|
|Hierarchy is more about power||Hierarchy is inherent in protoplasm; it’s natural|