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A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix Paperback – February 1, 2007
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Friedman's thesis: there is a "failure of nerve" in American civilization today. "There exists," he says, "throughout America today a rampant sabotaging of leaders who try to stand tall amidst the raging anxiety-storms of our time. It is a highly reactive atmosphere pervading all the institutions of our society -- a regressive mood that contaminates the decision-making processes of government and corporations at the highest level, and, on the local level, seeps down into the deliberations of neighborhood church, synagogue, hospital, library, and school boards." This reactivity leads to what he calls a "leadership-toxic climate" that makes it exceptionally difficult for clear, decisive, well-defined leadership to function effectively. The book, he says, "is about leadership in the land of the quick fix, about leadership in a society so reactive that it cannot choose leaders who might calm its anxiety.Read more ›
In 20 years of coaching executives, I've read scores of books on leadership. I continue to return to Edwin Friedman as the most insightful, realistic analyst of the dynamics that occur in the emotional soup we call the workplace.
This book is not for the faint of heart. As the title implies, the antidote to a failure of nerve is courage. Courage becomes necessary once a leader begins to shift his/her own participation in the brokenness of the organization - e.g., to finally address a performance issue with a key employee. With this commitment to decisive, mature action, reactions are inevitable. Thus the need for courage: to persist in the face of those reactions.
Leaders will discover keys to recognize the emotionality that contaminates all decision-making processes, and what is required to provide clear, decisive, well-defined action. Friedman offers a treasure trove of tools, concepts and principles (e.g., five characteristics of a highly anxious system) to help leaders diagnose complex situations and to determine what is helpful and what is harmful.
Perhaps his most crucial contribution is the insistence that the leader focus on self: that is, in order to create transformation in a system, the leader needs to identify his/her participation in the present dynamic, and focus on altering his/her own role. Again, courage is a requirement here, but thankfully, focus on self diminishes the stress inherent in attempting to change others.Read more ›
The themes include the necessity of a sense of adventure and the possession of courage in leaders, the importance of self-differentiation, focusing on strengths instead of catering to weaknesses, the destructive nature of relationship triangles and the challenges leaders face among followers.
He highlights some negative practices of leaders in our culture, mainly the over-dependence on data and information and the misplaced emphasis on emphathy over action.
In this book, readers will find practical, simple ways to improve leadership. This book will challenge some of the accepted practices of organizational leadership today and should open readers' eyes to necessities of effective leadership.
All of Friedman's themes are applicable to families, congregations, businesses, government, etc. This is an especially useful book for parents and pastors/rabbis.
The downside of the book is that it was published posthomously, so the last three chapters were collected by colleagues who also edited the book. The effect is that it is not as cogent and concise as it might have been if Friedman had lived long enough to complete the writing himself.
This is a dense book on leadership that is definitely worth the effort of reading, as it will change the way you lead and relate to others.
Craig Stephans, author of Shakespeare On Spirituality: Life-Changing Wisdom from Shakespeare's Plays
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have read a handful of books on leadership, but this is the only one that I've ever really benefited from. The proliferation of materials, books, resources, articles, etc. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Bryce L. Young
The information in this book needs to be mandatory for everyone in all walks of life.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book casts a startling new light on how to lead an organization through change - sadly the author passed away with the manuscript unfinished. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kennedy McGowan
Clear assessment of the failings of society and the opportunity for well differentiated leaders to bring positive change! Very empowering.Published 4 months ago by Rachel C. Kuhn
It is never too late to learn something about yourself and how you respond to the world. A Failure of Nerve offers helpful insights for any church leader on how to navigate the... Read morePublished 4 months ago by RevTommy