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

Reflective Leadership – To Thine Ownself Be Honest

Written by: on November 8, 2018


A Failure of Nerve: Leadership is the Age of the Quick Fix delves into the varied familial constructs and expectations that influence leadership strategy and execution. Rabbi Edwin H. Friedman, organizational consultant, family therapist and community relations specialist [1], dares us to look beneath the surface and question our own biases – He dares us stop, take a breath, say a prayer and seek to understand. This type of introspective and lifestyle requires one to leap – leap in with both feet and be brave enough to leave changed. The author reveals that:

Conceptually stuck systems cannot become unstuck simply by trying harder. For a fundamental reorientation to occur, a spirit of adventure that optimizes serendipity and enables new perceptions beyond the control of our thinking processes must happen first. [2]

Friedman weaves through 5 facets of cronic anxiety and challenges his readers to change their thinking and their reactions – He dares them to lead by example. The author addresses, “reactivity, herding, blame displacement, a quick-fix mentality and lack of differentiated leadership.”[3] Friedman delves into the varied determents of these reactions and discusses the chronic state of anxiety that has swept through America. He reveals that, “Highly reactive families are a panic in search of a trigger.”[4] Reactive families are not simply volatile or quick to judge, but also quick to conform to a unified voice. The author looks at the herding reaction and suggests that, “The constant pressure of various members on one another to adapt, whether through threats or charm, is often characteristic of the families with the most severe physical and emotional problems.”[5] Freidman advocates for self-differentiation[6] because he believes that one needs to lead from a place of objectivity.

I recently posted a reaction on Facebook in response to the shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA. My views and reaction are shaped by familial constructs and experience; however, I tried to present my post objectively and devoid of personal influence. It was interesting to see the reactions and comments that encircled my post within minutes. Immediately, I could see how their reactions were influenced by their family background. Some looked for quick fixes and were frustrated when I didn’t have an exact formula, others were tentative and formed their comments in a positive like, others were offended that I was going against the herd mentality and others were reactionary and didn’t understand the full context of my post. I loved interacting with this Facebook posts in light of Friedman’s text. It gave me the ability to step back and question the reasoning behind their response and the reasoning behind my own reaction. As Jason Clark recommended in Hong Kong, I took a breath and silently wondered – I wondered about their own context and the crux of the reasoning behind their beliefs.

According to Friedman, “What chronically anxious families are largely incapable of seeing is that trauma is often, and perhaps usually, less the result of the impacting agent than of the family’s own evolving emotional processes.”[7] Leadership starts and ends with one’s reflection. Friedman’s text echoes scripture with the concept of love – one cannot love others without first prioritizing God and then self. However, because we live in a quick fix society, we pick at the twig and become blinded by the beam. Friedman suggests that:

The notion that one has to be able to understand the background of people in order to help them is ad hominem thinking in reverse. While such information can be useful on a macro scale to help various groups preserve their traditions or benefit from government entitlements, the bottom line in efforts to help people grow still is (as has been mentioned) that patients cannot rise above the maturity (or anxiety) level of their counselor, no matter what the form of therapy.[8]

According to Friedman, one must be able to understand one’s own familial influence and approach situations objectively. Therefore, he asserts that leadership starts with introspection of self, which produces a stance of self-differentiation[9]. Therefore, “Differentiation is the lifelong process of striving to keep one’s being in balance through the reciprocal external and internal processes of self-definition and self-regulation.”[10] Moreover, differentiation is a healthy understanding of self and the ripple effect of one’s actions. “Understanding our own complexity and drama is part of and vital to the story of trust and the power of Conversational Intelligence.” [11] Understanding one’s self creates an awareness that realizes one’s influence.

Universality hides within the shadows of political parties, religious views and societal constructs. However, as the shadows lift and reality sets in, we soon realize that humanity is a living breathing organism of varied reactions that stem from similar familial structures. Rabbi Edwin H. Friedman dares us to look beneath the surface and question our own biases – He dares us to realize that we are more alike than we ever imagined.



[1]Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, 10th ed. (New York, NY: Church Publishing, 2017), 5.

[2]Ibid., 37.

[3]Ibid., 60.

[4]Ibid., 70.

[5]Ibid., 75.

[6]Ibid., 28.

[7]Ibid., 85.

[8]Ibid., 118.

[9]Ibid., 29.

[10]Ibid., 194.

[11]Judith E. Glaser, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (Brookline, MA: Bibliomotion, Books + media, 2014), 35.


About the Author


Colleen Batchelder

I speak at conferences, churches, companies and colleges on intergenerational communication, marketing, branding your vision and living authentically in a ‘filtered’ world. My talks are customized to venue needs and audience interests. My passion is to speak with organizations and bridge the intergenerational gap. I consult with companies, individuals, churches and nonprofit organizations and help them create teams that function from a place of communication that bridges the generational gap. I’m also the Founder and President of LOUD Summit – a young adult organization that presents workshops, seminars and summits that encourage, empower and equip millennials to live out their destiny and walk in their purpose. When I’m not studying for my DMin in Leadership and Global Perspectives at Portland Seminary, you can find me enjoying a nice Chai Latte, exploring NYC or traveling to a new and exotic destination.

5 responses to “Reflective Leadership – To Thine Ownself Be Honest”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    “Jumping in with both feet and being brave enough to leave changed” is a great introduction. I was the guest speaker at an Eagle Scout Honor Ceremony last night, and in addition to giving a speech on “Being Prepared- for Spiritual Warfare” I challenged the new Eagle Scout and his troop, leaders, and attendees to be brave in the world.
    Being brave, in any context since the fall of man, is going to be challenging without Christ in the person’s life. Nevertheless, we must lead both lost and the saved and should expect evil to manifest itself at every turn; especially in ministry. I encourage you to keep on your full armor so that when you put yourself out there, you can take the leadership hits and survive. Otherwise, leaders may fall into the “fear” category that Freidman constructs in his discussion about the age of quick fixes. Great post!
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Thank you, Mike!

      Too many times, we believe that we’ve reached the pinnacle of accomplishment when we graduate on our journey; however, these moments are simply reminders that we are called to be brave on the road ahead and increase our faith. It must have been impactful for those becoming Eagle Scouts to be challenged past this moment and given a glimpse at their next opportunities for leadership.

      Friedman mentioned, “The focus on pathology rather than strength throughout our society is itself a form of displacement, since it protects us from the far more difficult task of personal accountability” (Friedman 2007, 89). How did their experience as Eagle Scouts enable them to approach obstacles from the position of personal ownership rather than displacement of blame? Do you find that those who don’t understand spiritual warfare fall into victimization because they place their strength in circumstance rather than Christ?

  2. mm Dan Kreiss says:


    I believe you summarized Friedman’s work very well and connected it to your experience with your Facebook post. I wonder how this reading informed your responses to your post and if you reacted differently than you might have prior to reading Friedman. How can differentiated leadership be applied to a social media setting which did not exist when the book was published? Does the context change the way the differentiated leader works?

    • Thank you, Dan!

      It completely changed my interaction and gave me the ability to see the reasoning behind people’s reactions. It was interesting, one commenter kept pressing for solutions and demanding his views throughout the thread. Before reading Friedman, I would be tempted to get frustrated at his lack of objectivity; however, when I stepped back and evaluated the context of his reaction, I realized the why behind his reasoning. I finally acknowledged his views as differing but thanked him for sharing his ideas and his context. He was shocked that I wasn’t trying to convert his ideology or force a quick solution.

      For Christians, the biggest struggle is the idea of conversation. For some reason, we converse with one another as theological missionaries determined to fix viewpoints, instead of brothers and sisters connected through Jesus. Differentiated leadership is a must within the context of social media and within the context of ministry to young adults. This generation values diversity; therefore, they see Christianity as being simply based upon the life, death and resurrection of Christ and not on the personal mandates of religious tradition or personal preference.

      I recently heard a speaker reveal that Gen Z is spending up to 8 hours on their phones each day. This means that they’re interacting on social media, watching videos, listening to sermons and evaluating our actions on the web more than they’re in Sunday service. When we approach social media from a place of differentiated leadership, we point to Jesus and not to ourselves – We try to bridge the gap and create hubs of unity within our interactions. For many, social media is the first place that young people will witness Jesus, which is why it is imperative to create spaces of dialogue, not debate.

  3. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    If only social media had more self-differentiation! Good insights and good application yo our work as a leader and a developer of leaders! The concept that this is an ongoing process can be frustrating, although it is simply the nature of reality, and something we need to do.

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