I’m not convinced Edwin Friedman is dead. I’m sure he wrote A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix while watching this week’s presidential debate. His descriptive charts and tables state precisely what we are observing and experiencing in American politics today. More’s the pity.
But that’s not what I want to write about.
This blog post experiments with Friedman-esque leadership.
Our relationships within LGP Cohort 6 remind me of high school. I think this because I see within the 10/11/12 of us (my heart says Colleen is still a part of us, and I miss Anthony) two or three social subgroups. Being an extrovert, energized by people and relationships, I have an internal compulsion to build as many relationships as possible. Plus, I hate being left out of anything.
When my ‘self’ is functioning as a differentiated self, I realize that trying to break into established social circles is an emotional process; and one that carries more pain than pleasure. My emotional side has always been sensitive to social rejection, and there was enough of that in junior high and high school.
In a more mature and sophisticated way than in high school I find frustration in trying to form relational connections within the cohort. I have been thankful to share a love for photography with Pablo, and love for the Dodgers with Aaron P; and I sense a commonality with those of us from the Left Coast (Claire, Aaron, Anthony, and myself). But, have these “natural” relational groupings inadvertently resulted in anyone else in the Cohort feeling unable to connect with me? I feel relational distance from our brothers who came into the cohort with established friendships from having done Master’s work together. But if I want to own Friedman’s principles, then I process that no distance is intended on their part, and I ponder how to take responsibility for my internal reactions.
Might we dare to imagine a renaissance of relationships for the Nation of Cohort 6? Is that even a need? Is that even a valued concept? Or is the social construct of Cohort 6 stuck in the middle ages?
Now, since blame is a characteristic of regressive systems, I need to begin by thinking about what my “analysis” says about me. For what, within myself, do I need to take responsibility? Does some of my “struggle” come from un-self-regulating empathy?
When Friedman wrote about imaginative people being frustrated, and about the person at the top being a “peace-monger,” he described me when he wrote, “ By that I mean a highly anxious risk-avoider…incapable of taking well-defined stands…someone who treats conflict or anxiety like mustard gas… Such leaders are often ‘nice,’ if not charming.”  (I do not lay claim to the “charming” description, in any positive sense. But my differentiated self realizes the temptation to try to charm my way into social groupings, or into the favorable opinion of others.)
Thinking in Friedman-esque ways, also causes me to consider my anxious self. Is my sense of belonging or not belonging to social groups really more about my own internal uncertainty as to self? I am certain this affected how I approached leadership as a pastor for 38 years. I am all too aware that my nerve failed to offer leadership if I felt intimidated or threatened. Conversely, in the leadership I am currently trying to give, I feel less need for approval by those with whom I work, and am in a better position to lead with nerve.
Friedman touched on my inner journey again in his chapter on data junkies. He wrote, “What I am driving at is this: As long as leaders – parents, healers, managers – base their confidence on how much data they have acquired, they are doomed to feeling inadequate, forever.” 
Indeed, the more we read and the more I explore research, the more I realize that there is so much information available that I have no hope of gaining any mastery over it. I won’t ever be able to satisfy myself that I’m an “expert” simply because I know there is more that I don’t know than that I do know.
So my leadership, and the leadership training that I dare to offer to others, must be reoriented by what Friedman has written. The real challenge before me now is to figure out how to “get at” this differentiated self in the lives of men and women from China, Iran, Korea, Uganda…
Writing this has been as big a personal risk as I’ve taken in a long time. It’s entirely possible that I have so offended one or more of the cohort members that I’ll find myself as a sub-group of one in Cape Town. But it seemed a worthy experiment. I hope I do not now experience Chapter 4, concerning surviving in a hostile environment. This blog is also a risk because it contains few direct quotations from Failure of Nerve. Will these ramblings adequately demonstrate reflective processing of reading Friedman’s book?
In the end, what’s the purpose of these thoughts? Since Friedman presents that the major issue in the health and effectiveness of families and organizations is self-differentiation in the leader, my hope is that for us this blog might be a small part in our processes of self-differentiation.
“To sum up, this is not a book that will play it safe. My thinking is based on the notion that contemporary American civilization is as misoriented about the environment of relationships as the medieval world was misoriented about the Earth and the sky.” 
My hope is that this exercise will play a part in my own/our own reorientation. God forbid that the Church in general and our cohort in specific would ever degrade as badly as American politics and political leaders. As we observe this week’s political nonsense, we can see that Friedman’s tables are accurate.  We never want to typify or manifest chronically anxious behaviors and character in our leadership.
Here we are in a doctoral program, seeking more skill and expertise. Perhaps taking Friedman to heart will be one of the most important aspects of our D. Min. training. As a cohort may we be iron sharpening iron as we interact with each other.
 Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, (New York, NY: Seabury Books, 2007), 13-14 .
 Ibid., 96.
 Ibid., 49.
 Ibid., 50, 91-94.