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

The Power of Presence

Written by: on October 30, 2014

I can’t remember the number of times I’ve heard my husband tell me how difficult it is to coach people who either do not want to be coached, or who are not ready to be coached. That’s why at the start of any potential coaching engagement, he asks clients to do a ‘coachability’ test. My husband simply does not want to waste his time people who do not want to change.

Friedman takes this idea one step further. He believes leaders should focus on changing themselves first rather than on those who are simply “unmotivated to change.” Instead of focusing one’s energy on trying to change an organisation or individual, focus instead on becoming a ‘well-differentiated leader’, differentiation that refers to a direction in life rather than a state in being. According to the author, differentiation is “charting one’s own way by means of one’s own internal guidance system, rather than perpetually eyeing the ‘scope’ to see where others are at.” [1] It’s an idea that is more to do with emotional being, strength and the fabric of a person’s existence, rather than a person’s behaviour. It is evident through:


  • Being clear about one’s own personal values and goals
  • Taking maximum responsibility for one’s own emotional being and destiny rather than blaming others or the context
  • The capacity to take a stand in an intense emotional system
  • Maintaining a non-anxious presence in the face of anxious others. [2]


This kind of leader has the capacity to influence others through his or her very nature, their presence or ‘being’. Such a leader’s presence (‘self’) can influence an entire organisation, without even needing to be in close in physical proximity to all concerned. As Friedman writes, “leaders function as the immune systems of their institutions…the crucial issue of leadership in democratic societies may not be how much power they exercise but how well their presence is able to preserve that society’s integrity.” [3]


Basically, Friedman believes that the world needs the kind of leaders with maturity of character over college qualifications. Individuals who are not conflict-avoidant, or care more for people’s feelings than the well being of an institution. Leaders who possess the courage to take responsibility for their own lives, who are decisive, self-regulated, persistent, possess vision and clear principles, and can take well-defined stands. For Friedman, this kind of self-differentiated leaders is important because a “leader’s self is essential to the integrity of a community.” [4]


Overall I found A Failure to Nerve a great follow on from Exit, Voice and Loyalty. In summary, well-differentiated leadership:

Focuses on strength; is concerned for one’s own growth; works with motivated people; matures the system; seeks enduring change; is concerned to define self; is fed up with the treadmill; looks at one’s own stuckness; is challenged by difficult situations; recognizes that reactivity and sabotage are evidence of one’s effectiveness; has a universal perspective; sees problems as the focus of pre-existing anxiety; adapts towards strength; has a challenging attitude that encourages responsibility; is more likely to create intimate relationships. [5] That’s the bar to conquer, the standards to reach, the challenge of maturity to attain that Friedman has set. It seems an impossible task, yet the need for this kind of leadership is so great, one cannot hide. May God give me the power of His presence, to empower mine.









[1] Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure Of Nerve: Leadership In The Age Of The Quick Fix (New York, NY: Church Publishing, 2007) 183

[2] Friedman, 183

[3] Friedman, 17

[4] Friedman, 50

[5] Friedman, 231

About the Author


Liz Linssen

5 responses to “The Power of Presence”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    Liz, thanks again for a very thoughtful post. I just finished reading Stefania’s post and have to ponder if there are similar difficulties that you face in pastoring a new church. In light of your position, I think your clear understanding of “differentiation” should be most helpful. The challenges are great in attempting to be a “well-differentiated leader” (as Friedman calls it), but it seems essential as we step out to be obedient to God’s call for our lives, which always results in criticisms and challenges by others who seem to feel called to be disgruntled about everything we do. For a person like myself who thrives on peace-making and hate to be negative about anyone, it is awfully hard to not buy into the criticisms and challenges. Being clear on your own personal values and goals then becomes very important, because it allows some distance or space to discern if people are really upset with you as a person or is it their own emotional bag and narrow thinking that is really the issue! Here is the further paradox, that as we become more differentiated we will ultimately cause more disruptions…because people are uncomfortable with individuals who know where they are going. Isn’t that part of why people had such trouble with Jesus? So, Liz, I would suggest that if you are getting criticism and being challenged (as you have mentioned in the past)…it isn’t because you aren’t a likable person…it is because you are “self-regulated, persistent, possess vision and clear principles, and can take well-defined stands” — you are doing something right! Keep up the good work, and we will pray that God gives you strength and patience for the journey!

    • mm Liz Linssen says:

      Hello John
      Thank you so much for your feedback. It’s such a blessing to receive wisdom and guidance from yourself. I count it a real privilege. Thank you.
      Indeed, although it has amazed me to see the behaviour of some individuals since planting this church, it nevertheless doesn’t shake what I’m doing. After all, like you say, as long as we are walking in faith, love and integrity, God will deal with all the rest. And I’ve seen Him do that.
      I did find this week’s book very inspiring and encouraging. It was refreshing to read an author who is passionate about differentiation in leadership. I do think you are already such a leader John 🙂 It’s such a blessing to be able to encourage and learn from everyone on this course. A blessing indeed.

  2. mm Deve Persad says:

    I appreciate your post Liz, especially considering your message on Facebook earlier this week. In this blog you said: “Leaders who possess the courage to take responsibility for their own lives, who are decisive, self-regulated, persistent, possess vision and clear principles, and can take well-defined stands.” This is such a challenge as I’m sure you’re aware. My first instinct is not to take take responsibility or to check my self, but to launch into the situation and react. There is great value in much of Friedman’s writing for those who serve in leadership. Of the various aspects in Friedman’s list of “self-differntiation” which one would you consider your greatest strength? Which one would you consider your greatest need for improvement?

  3. mm Liz Linssen says:

    Hello Deve
    Thank you so much for your feedback. I really appreciate your well-thought out wisdom 🙂
    I think a strength is taking on responsibility. That doesn’t scare me so much. A weakness I need to work on. Well, I guess there are many, but one that comes to mind is the need to communicate better with those I serve with.
    How about you? What area have you seen progress in in recent years?
    God bless, Liz

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Nicely done Liz…the return question:

      Since you asked, I will share this: the biggest change for me in recent years is learning to be quick to say “yes” to the ideas of those with whom I serve. Just that small change has helped them to grow in their confidence and capacity to be responsible in their particular area. It gives them the freedom to fail, which is vital to achieving success in the long term.

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