In his book A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Edwin H. Friedman takes a different approach than most books on leadership. I have read countless leadership books that are all about head knowledge and logical decision-making. I have also read many authors that recognize the spiritual aspect of leadership, but Friedman draws out the emotional aspect of leadership that is often overlooked, but can cripple a leaders ability to be decisive and effective. Friedman does not disregard the cognitive side of leadership and clearly states that, “Differentiation is an emotional concept, not a cerebral one; but it does require clear headedness.” One needs to be clear-headed, but many leaders mistakenly believe that effective leadership is a matter of having all the right information, all the right techniques, and all the right formulas; they believe that this head knowledge will make the a great leader. The reality is that just because one person knows more than others does not make that person a qualified leader. Most of us have worked with leaders who have the right knowledge and education, but are emotionally unable to lead in a healthy, effective way
Whether we admit it or not, our decisions are driven by our emotional state. I love the story Friedman relates regarding a conversation with a major U.S. denomination in which they said, “We are about to start a project that will raise fifty million dollars for our five hundred most troubled ministers. How would you spend it?” When he questioned the wisdom in spending millions of dollars on troubled ministers and instead suggested that spending it on the best ministers would ultimately be more effective, the response was, “But we could never raise the money for that.” I love that story because it emphasizes the reality that we can know the right choices to make as leaders, but often make the wrong choices because of our emotions. This seems to be particularly true in ministry and volunteer organizations.
Freidman says that a well-differentiated leader is not “an autocrat who tells other what to do…[it is] someone who has clarity about his or her own life goals, and therefore, someone who is less likely to become lost in the anxious emotional processes swirling about.” Rudyard Kipling wrote about keeping your head while those around you are losing theirs. Perhaps Friedman would say that if you can keep control of your emotions while those around you are losing theirs, you would have the nerve to lead. There will always be reasons for losing the nerve to lead, but “differentiation is taking maximum responsibility for one’s own emotional being and destiny rather than blaming others or the context.” We need differentiated leaders in the church today who have the guts to make the right choices and lead from a place of emotional strength. A leader who has integrity between their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual self will be in a great position to be mightily used by God.
 Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, [new ed. (New York: Seabury Books, 2007), 183.
 Ibid., 72.
 Ibid., 72.
 Ibid., 14.
 Ibid., 183.