Edwin Friedman’s book, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, sheds light on what I believe to be a major leadership crisis in today’s churches and organizations. Lately I’ve noticed that there has been so much emphasis placed on servant leadership, gaining consensus, and cultural sensitivity, that people in leadership roles often fail to actually lead teams. A leadership position should not look like a dictatorship, but it should clearly be differentiated from the role of a follower. Groups and individuals need to be directed toward a cohesive end goal, and obstacles must be removed to allow them to move forward in the direction and pace in which God is leading them.
Recently, my research has lead me to explore the concept of shalom and stewardship, and what this means within an organizational context. Leading others requires that a leader understand the difference between just keeping peace or status quo and establishing an environment of shalom. Leaders aren’t babysitters; they are charged with getting things done. Shalom dictates that leaders engage in and accept healthy conflict, knowing that this will ultimately allow necessary forward movement and will prevent underlying tensions from undermining a healthy state.
Shalom is ‘a social happening, an event in inter-personal relations’ but the necessary locus and centre of this is the relationship with God through Christ. Shalom is a future eschatological hope, not a practical political possibility for the present. As the eschatological goal of our mission, shalom in all its aspects must be the model of our activity. It is the direction in which God is going; it must also be the concept which inspires our evangelistic, political and social activity. 
Leaders must cast vision, promote quality, and walk others through work efforts, continuous improvement, and necessary change. Max Depree, in Leadership is an Art, notes that leaders are obligated to provide and maintain momentum. Too often, good leadership is equated to those who can keep the peace, and instill a “let’s just all get along” attitude. Yet, shalom allows for healthy conflict, which is necessary for driving innovation. Like the Israelites, people wander in the desert when they lack clear direction and goals or objectives. A person fails to lead when they don’t take the reigns and live out the role of the leader versus follower.
Friedman talks about the need for leaders to self-differentiate. It is good when leaders focus on their mission and goals, and they clearly operate within their function and influence. A careful balance is necessary to maintain positive working relationships and to avoid negative politics. Those who follow shifting trends lack the ability to effectively lead as they don’t have any consistency in their approach. For example, servant leadership has some good underlying concepts. However, too many people in leadership roles have latched onto this trend as a personal model, neglecting the longer term and true leadership actions necessary to accomplish objectives. Their pendulum has swung so far toward the servant mentality that they fail to give direction and to stand at the head of a team. They become peacemakers and political allies vs. leaders. Friedman talks about the dangers of ‘peace-mongering’, which is a result of ‘failure of nerve’. Peacemaking is a good strength, but it is also bad when it favors harmony or keeping things calm over making progress and doing what is right.
Some people and organizations frown upon leaders who face resistance from those who are supposed to follow them. The idea that good leaders naturally have followers shouldn’t be applied in all circumstances. Sometimes leaders must be unpopular and stand up against unhealthy norms within an organization. Often, this means a risk to job security, safety, or personal reputation in order to do the right thing. This is where the rubber hits the road. Too often people in leadership positions back down for fear of consequences, even when they know that there is a right action that should be taken. In these instances, personal agenda supersedes everything else. Consider how many pastors, faculty, staff, and customers just overlook issues or brush concerns under the rug, as they don’t want to make waves and face resistance. Self doubt comes into play, and personal anxiety can overshadow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes a failure to do the right thing is due to a fear of financial repercussions for an organization. There is often a false justification contributing to a lack of action.
Overall, Friedman’s book shed light on what could be considered a plague in Christian organizations today. Trends show that people are speaking loudly and saying that ‘something isn’t right’. Church membership declines, Christian University enrollment numbers decline, and higher percentages of people claim they don’t trust organized religious institutions. Would you trust a leader who has ‘failure of nerve’? Christ did the right thing. He clearly had good intentions and love for others underlying His leadership actions. Yet, He was controversial, made others angry, and made great waves in systems of injustice. As we strive to be more like Him, may we intentionally and bravely step up and do the right thing. May we resist brushing issues under rugs, and bravely face those day-to-day actions and decisions that are necessary to a diligent pursuit of the mission the He give us individually and at the team or organizational level. I pray He gives us wisdom, and that we obey by having the nerve to stand up and actually lead.
 Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, [new ed. (New York: Seabury Books, ©2007).
 David Gillett, “Shalom: Content for a Slogan,” Themelios: Volume 1, No. 3, Summer 1976 (1976): 81.
 Max De Pree, Leadership Is an Art (Studio City, CA: Phoenix Audio, 2007), 1, Electronic Format.