Friedman aims to show that
“Any renaissance, anywhere, whether in a marriage or a business, depends primarily not only on new data and techniques, but on the capacity of leaders to separate themselves from the surrounding emotional climate so that they can break through the barriers that are keeping everyone from “going the other way.” (2007, 33)
In this paper, I review and reflect on Edwin Friedman’s Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. Writing for anyone who must lead within anxiety-driven, reactive cultures, Friedman is of the opinion that few leaders in America have the nerve to lead. This “disappointment of nerve” has become who we are at each level—a group of very responsive individuals without the determination to oppose the passionate pulls that emerge between individuals in associations, government, and families. This reality twists us toward self-pulverization. America has both reasonable and outrageous vulnerabilities that strengthen each other (McDonald, 2015).
The author frets about the emergency of leadership in America’s progress, which he describes as a “disappointment of nerve.” This emergency of authority is found all through American human advancement, in national, state, and local governmental issues, in the legislative framework, in schools, in organizations, and in families, which get especially close consideration. According to Friedman, “There exists throughout America today a rampant sabotaging of leaders who try to stand tall amid the raging anxiety-storms of our time” (Friedman, 2007, 2).
The first part of the book focuses on the denial of emotional systems at work in leaders’ contexts, eroding individuation in leadership and perverting our very understanding of leadership. In chapter one, a metaphor demonstrates how the obsolete maps of Old World Europe stalled human progress in the region. A renaissance was required then and now to roll out the kind of important improvements and to introduce another world because, “Imagination and indeed even curiosity are at root emotional, not cognitive, phenomena” (Friedman, 2007, 31). Chapter two says that present-day America is as stuck as old Europe was, in spite of innovative and mechanical advances, in its condition of enthusiastic reactivity and tension. The five parts of ceaseless nervousness are reactivity, crowding, accusing, brisk-fix attitudes, and absence of administration. Chapters three to five depict the constraining “equators” symptomatic of social relapse: 1) favoring information over conclusiveness, 2) trusting the fiction that learning makes clarity, 3) a move toward compassion over obligation (concentrating on shortcomings as opposed to quality), and 4) a disarray of selfishness and childishness.
The last chapters, six through eight offer some solutions and action plans. Chapter six starts by indicating how pioneers need to chip away at societal norms, thus creating self-separation. Chapter seven investigates the essential unit of enthusiastic relationality—the triangle—and how understanding emotional triangles can help with self-separation. Emergencies are a noteworthy part of chapter eight, which describes the emergencies that are not of the pioneer’s own making through the force of presence. Based on this summary, I focus my reflection on the “social science construction of reality.”
Friedman sees the applied issue established in the “social science construction of reality” (2007, 6), which concentrates on names portraying character in a specific social gathering or identity sort, as opposed to their place in the emotional framework in which they are encompassed. The emotion issue is an excessively solid connection, making it impossible for others to understand how they can be propelled, changed, and pacified, and stifling consideration of how one can change one’s self within an enthusiastic framework and let that framework adjust to that change.
Where emphasis is placed on the “social science construction of reality” (Friedman, 2007, 6) in their comprehension of such issues, concentrating on identities and psychological research projects, or on people’s sociological and anthropological “specialties” (sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, wage, class, and so on; Daft, 2014), Friedman sees this methodology as having a tendency to add to the issues, instead of resolve them. For Friedman, the pivotal issues are things that all gatherings and their individuals offer in like manner—specifically, the pressure between the “strengths for self and harmony.” Friedman is of the opinion that “leadership in America is stuck in the rut of trying harder and harder without obtaining significantly new results” (Friedman, 2007, 3).
Friedman’s bits of insight into initiative are more direly required than any other time in recent memory. He helps us understand that all associations have identities, similar to families, and we must apply our knowledge of family treatment to chapels and synagogues, ministers and rabbis, government officials and instructors. Failure of Nerve is key perusing for all pioneers, be they guardians or presidents, corporate officers or instructors, religious bosses or mentors, healers or commanders, administrators or church deacons.
Friedman’s bits of knowledge about our relapsed, “safety belt society,” arranged toward security instead of enterprise, clarify the challenges pioneers continually confront today. Suspicious of the “snappy fixes” and moment arrangements that drive us through our way of life just to offer a route to the following craze, he advocates for quality and self-separation as the signs of genuine initiative. His equation for achievement is more development, not more information; stamina, not strategy; and moral obligation, not compassion.
Friedman’s revelations about leadership and the culture’s failure of nerve developed slowly throughout a 40-year career with experience in congregations, businesses, and government. Although different types of organizations use different languages, the culture of reaction and anxiety and leadership’s failure of nerve seem to be universal. Furthermore, many “solutions” are just problems in remission, usually resurfacing later, because they were never adequately dealt with initially. Another aspect of Friedman’s growing enlightenment to the failure of nerve was social science’s total inability to aid in the prediction of the success of people, institutions, and relationships—particularly psychology.
The leaders tendency in anxious times is to adapt to immaturity, showing “a failure of nerve.” Friedman contrasts this with the quantum leap that occurred around the year 1500.That being said, there is an important aspect of Christian ministry, especially when approached from the transitional and empowering perspectives, emphasizes the role of church leaders as agents of change. Are the church leaders showing a failure of Nerve?
Daft, R. L. 2014. The Leadership Experience. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Friedman, Edwin, H. 2007. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. New York: Seabury Books
McDonald, J. 2015. Urban America: Growth, Crisis, and Rebirth. Armonk, NY: Routledge.