DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Long Live Edwin Friedman

Written by: on October 13, 2016

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.” [1] (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.” [2]

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.” [3]

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. [4] 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.

[1] Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, (New York, NY: Seabury Books, 2007), 13-14 .
[2] Ibid., 96.
[3] Ibid., 49.
[4] Ibid., 50, 91-94.

About the Author


Marc Andresen

I have a B. A. in Music from San Diego State University and received an M. Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1977. July 1 2015 I retired after 38 years in pastoral ministry. The passion and calling that developed in the last 20 years is leadership training in cross-cultural contexts, as my wife and I have had many opportunities to teach in Eastern Europe and Africa. I have been married for 38 years and have two adult children, one daughter-in-law and a beautiful granddaughter. My hobbies are photography and British sports cars.

16 responses to “Long Live Edwin Friedman”

  1. Marc,
    Thanks for the insight into this book and into life. What I have discovered is that in life there are going to be invitations to be involved that cost me something. If I desire to be in relationship with a certain group of people it usually requires some sort of sacrifice on my part….time, money, sleep, etc…. Relationships that look natural and easy, usually really require time spent and sacrifices made to travel, talk, walk or text…
    So having the nerve to say yes when it is inconvenient is what I learned from one of my very first mentors. He also taught me that you can always take off clothes if you are over dressed but you can never put any on if you are not. He also taught me to remember the first time I had ever interacted with someone on purpose in case I was ever asked to do their funeral. Look people in the eye and have real conversations. Some of the things that I still do today to have relationships. But all that takes time.
    That pastor mentor no longer has a voice in my life but he also had nerve to lead and I have never forgotten that lesson from him. Living life based on OPO’s (Other People Opinions) will never work out well, so live life in such a way that when you lead there is a way that others can follow.

    I’m not a Dodger fan…. I haven’t ever been to Portland. I do love the east coast (Coronado Island) comes to mind, but after sharing meals and Bella Italia time together, I consider you a friend.

    God Bless.


    • mm Marc Andresen says:


      I am glad you consider me a friend.

      I’m working on how not being able to put on clothes if you’re under dressed relates to differentiated self and social groupings. I’m sure you have other things to do with your time on a Sunday, but if you have a moment…

  2. Hi Marc. Thank you for this vulnerable post! I love our AaronP-Marc-Dodger triangular relationship. I especially appreciate it when there is no tension in it like right now just a few hours after they beat the Nationals to move on to the next round of playoffs verses the Cubbies.
    About 3 or 4 years ago now during an intense discussion (re: fight) with Lisa she looked at me and said, “Aaron, I can’t manage your emotions anymore.” Wow. That was like getting slapped in the face and punched in the gut at the same time. Boy did I have to walk that one off!
    However, when I did, and we could talk like loving humans again, I realized it was time for me to start taking responsibility for my own stuff. I look to this discussion as the start of my path toward differentiation as a husband and leader in my marriage and home.
    I tell you this story because, the old me wants to give you a big hug and show empathy and maybe take on your emotions in an inappropriate way. However, the Post-reading-Friedman-me wants to hug you and challenge you to grow and ask what you could do in order to move beyond viewing this cohort through the high school lens. I like Friedman’s allegory of the pre-1492 thinking and the post new world “discovery.” Can you imagine things differently?

    • mm Marc Andresen says:


      The 1492 imagery makes a great deal of sense to me, thinking of Friedman’s points.

      Yes, I can imagine things differently. I guess that would come to pass as we are each able to become more Friedman-esque in our differentiated selves.

  3. Aaron Cole says:


    Very insightful and vulnerable blog post. I agree with Kevin, I consider you a friend. I agree with Aaron to challenge you to move beyond viewing the cohort through a high school lens. I would add and agree with your self-reflective thinking that growth comes from changing and focusing only on what I have control over, Me.


    • mm Marc Andresen says:


      It’s ironic to me that I felt a huge leap forward in our sense of community when you risked sharing with us about your daughter. You all are in my prayers a lot. That part of friendship is huge for me.

  4. Jason Kennedy says:


    Interesting blog. I appreciate the vulnerability. I had a pastor tell me that the gap between expectations and reality is frustration. Do you think you had some expectations going in to the cohort?

    Do you think that your expectations are bringing this frustration?

    This might be where the conflict is. My expectation may have been completely different. Let me explain. If your expectation was to be a close knit group like cohort 5, but my expectation might be to power through and get the work done because I just started a knew job, helping my kids adjust, treading water, worried about our budget shortfall, etc.

    The point is that all of us approach this differently. All of us have various expectations, pressures, frustrations and reasons for being in the program.


    • mm Marc Andresen says:


      I almost responded to Aaron P that I have been processing my own expectations coming into the program, regarding how the cohorts worked together. Of course I had expectations, just as we all do heading into marriage. Of course we rarely share with others what those are, perhaps because we haven’t even articulated them to ourselves.

      Of course there is frustration when reality overrides expectations.

      • Jason Kennedy says:

        The expectation vs reality is huge for me especially leading a church revitalization that has been promised one thing and delivered another. I try to minimize the frustration gap by being clear on what is expected.

        I really appreciate you sharing and be willing to self examine. It says a lot about your character, your love for people and your love for God.


  5. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Marc,
    Your blog brought the reality of our “Reading” home. I particular like these statements,” 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?”

    I do wish we could take this on as a side research project and reveal our finding at the end of our study and make available for other cohorts to read and see the “renaissance of relationships for the Nation of Cohort 6”.
    Please present it to cohort 6. Thanks Rose Maria

    • mm Marc Andresen says:


      Wouldn’t that be a fascinating bit of research? “How do a group of leaders, greatly motivated for higher education, create a society of themselves?” “What is the sociology of doctoral communities?” “What is the process of doctoral students discovering differentiated self?”

      Hmmm. Maybe we can get a special dispensation from our esteemed leaders for some “Post-Doc” research…

  6. mm Phil Goldsberry says:


    Quite telling post. After reading Friedman, do you REALLY believe that your post is “present reality”? Everyone of us lives in certain “herds” and have leaders that are assigned to lead. Friedman seems to say that self-differentiation allows us to be secure in who we are and to address those around us, even it seems to be aggressive. Do you agree with that?

    LGP6 sees each other once per year face to face and last year we saw each others typing skills weekly. With ZOOM that has changed the complexity. I can change your perceived emotions but surely you have seen overtures of friendship from each of us. I would hope you would call me friend!


    • mm Marc Andresen says:


      I am so sorry, but I’m not sure I understand your first paragraph and questions. Maybe I missed something along the way, but by “present reality” do you mean something of the current reality of our cohort? Yes, self-differentiation does allow us to be secure in who we are. I’m sorry but I don’t comprehend the “aggressive” aspect. Perhaps I’m betraying that I missed something in the portions of the book I did not read.

      And yes, I consider you and each of our cohort members to be friends.

      Perhaps (as I think while I type) what I’m really driving at is confronting within myself that I had a certain anticipation of “community” and how that is playing out is different. My calm processing self says that there’s nothing wrong with different from expectations. It’s just different.

  7. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Great vulnerable post. You have everyone talking which is always the mark of a leader: taking charge of something. You owned your emotions, took your risk and now everyone’s talking. One of the things I learned from this book is that nothing is a quick fix. Even with this dialogue through blog, we still need corresponding action. Every so often I feel out of place because I’ve never been a pastor and like you, most of the team have been or serve as pastors. I’m also the youngest among the group but I realize that we all have hidden gems. Like Friedman, I believe I can call on anyone of you for support regardless of my in person dialogue on the advances. I think the biggest reality is this, we are a community of leaders but our experiences often drives us differently. You and I have a music background but you’ve been pastoring longer than I’ve been alive so I can’t relate. As a result, I’m often silenced by the pastoral conversations.

    Friedman definitely became a prophetic voice for our current presidential campaign. Effective Leadership is not a quick fix.


    • mm Marc Andresen says:


      Wonderful comment – that you/we can call on anyone for support.

      I have decided that our understanding of “community” is where I’m adjusting my subconscious expectations of community, to the reality of the day.

      I have never regarded you as a non-pastor, and I deeply regret if our conversations have ever been so pastor-centric that you’ve become silent. I truly equally value the voice of each member of our cohort.

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