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A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix [Paperback]

By Edwin H. Friedman (Author)
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Item description for A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin H. Friedman...

Ten years after his death, Edwin Friedman's insights into leadership are more urgently needed than ever. This book was unfinished at the time of Friedman's death and originally published in a limited edition. This new edition makes his life-changing insights and challenges available to a new generation of readers.

Publishers Description
Ten years after his death, Edwin Friedman's insights into leadership are more urgently needed than ever. He was the first to tell us that all organizations have personalities, like families, and to apply the insights of family therapy to churches and synagogues, rectors and rabbis, politicians and teachers. Failure of Nerve is essential reading for all leaders, be they parents or presidents, corporate executives or educators, religious superiors or coaches, healers or generals, managers or clergy. Friedman's insights about our regressed, seatbelt society, oriented toward safety rather than adventure, help explain the sabotage that leaders constantly face today. Suspicious of the quick fixes and instant solutions that sweep through our culture only to give way to the next fad, he argues for strength and self-differentiation as the marks of true leadership. His formula for success is more maturity, not more data; stamina, not technique; and personal responsibility, not empathy. This book was unfinished at the time of Friedman's death, and originally published in a limited edition. This new edition makes his life-changing insights and challenges available to a new generation of readers.

Citations And Professional Reviews
A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin H. Friedman has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christian Century - 10/16/2007 page 38

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Seabury Books
Pages   260
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2007
Publisher   Seabury Books
ISBN  159627042X  
ISBN13  9781596270428  

Availability  0 units.

More About Edwin H. Friedman

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Edwin H. Friedman, until his death in 1996, worked for more than 35 years in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, and was in great demand as a consultant and public speaker throughout the country. A family therapist and ordained rabbi, Edwin H. Friedman was well known in the fields of mental health and pastoral education for his motivational style and his unique blend of systems thinking, humor, and common sense. He offered acclaimed workshops for mental health practitioners, clergy, business leaders, and others.

Edwin H. Friedman has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Guilford Family Therapy (Hardcover)

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Leadership

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Practical Life > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix?

The unfinished symphony of a leader  Aug 24, 2008
Rabbi Ed Friedman was a groundbreaking scholar in applying Bowen Family Systems Theory to religious worshiping communities (churches and synagogues). "A Failure of Nerve" was to be the capstone of his lifetime work in leading congregations (as a rabbi), consulting congregations and businesses, community relations, teaching, and writing. Sadly, Ed Friedman died before he could finish "A Failure of Nerve." However, his children and colleagues collaborated in bringing this work to publication anyway--publishing the material Friedman had already written and turning his remaining notes into narrative. The result is a stinging critique of our American leader-crushing culture and a call-to-arms for leaders to transform our culture.

The first part of "A Failure of Nerve" provides an analysis of leadership--how leaders come into being, their mindset, their makeup, and the challenges they face. He heavily emphasizes the leader's thirst for adventure and their high regard for curiosity. He argues that the adventure-and-curiosity values of (primarily) Columbus, along with Luther, Calvin, Copernicus, Shakespeare, and others brought the world from Dark Ages to Renaissance. Were it not for Columbus et. al's leadership, sense of adventure, self-differentiated nature, and willingness to risk failure, the world would not quickly have gone from the highly-anxious leader-poor Dark Ages to the less-anxious leader-rich Renaissance. Unfortunately, Friedman argues, current western culture more resembles the Dark Ages than the Renaissance with regard to leadership.

Friedman argues that Western cultural values (e.g. the propensity to avoid leadership by immersing one's self in a sea of books and data; the fear of offending other people; the societal value of empathy; the fear of strong personalities, calling them narcissistic and autocratic instead of full of integrity and individuality) need to be challenged by some of the boldest of leaders so that more leaders can follow suit. He argues that the very thing that made the people of the Renaissance apt to become adventure-seeking heroes--rapid change--has now created so much instability that societal anxiety and undifferentiated persons run amok. The result is that potential leaders are sabotaged, worn down, and discouraged for ever attempting to lead in bold, new ways.

The solution, Friedman argues in the book's second part, is not simply less-anxious, highly-differentiated, highly-connected leadership...but also the steely backbone necessary to lead. Leaders in these ensuing generations need to stand up to the pressure to conform like no other generation of leaders; they will need to be bold, integrity-rich personalities in the face of opposition; they will have to stand firm and face weak less-differentiated opponents who somehow have claimed the moral high-ground. The result of this Columbus-like leadership may very-well be a new age of highly-differentiated leaders and a transformed American culture.

While this book does present excellent ideas, these ideas remain unrefined. Friedman's groundbreaking work, "Generation to Generation" was characterized by a playfulness and engagement with the reader that is absent in "A Failure of Nerve." The result is a darker, more pessimistic book. Further, the vast majority of this book defines the problem in modern America. The solutions--by far the more important part of the book--was left unfinished at Friedman's death and is thus much shorter and much less-developed. It was as if Friedman was building up to a crescendo...but then died before the apex of his thoughts. The reader is much poorer for this untimely death.

While inferior to "Generation to Generation," Friedman does provide many, many excellent points worthy of reading and digesting. While Friedman writes, "...I will be quite content if all I have succeeded in accomplishing is to supply this century's best candidate for book burning (28)," this book need not be burned. It should be discussed, taken to heart, and turned to often by those who have a strong desire to lead in their communities and those who have a vision for a possible future and are willing to risk their reputations, their fortunes, and their relationships for the good of others.

Although it is lacking in polish and development, the raw material is well, well worth a thorough read...or two...or three.
Family Systems applied to the culture   May 20, 2008
Friedman is not rehashing old work here. This is a new application of the Bowen Family Systems work as applied to leadership within the culture. I think his insights on anxiety in the culture are right on, and as always there is more hope where there is more understanding.
I recommend this to book to preachers, teachers, writers and analysts because these insights are distinctive and helpful.
Explains what's wrong quite well  Mar 20, 2008
After reading this book, I am now clear on why I am so frustrated with corporate and non-profit companies in the US. It's excellent and I plan to use it in my consulting practice - I've ordered copies for my clients!
Insightful and Different  Mar 11, 2008
I found Friedman's work very interesting and insightful. I am a parent and manager, so the concept of leadership is important to me. He puts his sometimes radical concepts into easy to digest sections, without watering in down at all. This is not your average management mumbo-jumbo, step-by-step, how to book.

At times it reads like a textbook, and some of his analogies with scientific discovery and history are long-winded, but all in all this was a book that made me think differently about how I act as a leader. It's very different from the standard stuff I have read before on leadership, managing and parenting. This is a book of well thought theory and examples. There is a lot of meat in this thing and it requires active reading skills.

Not for the weak of mind or self-help junkies.
Adventuresome Leadership  Nov 2, 2007
A Failure of Nerve presents a unique approach on leadership among the books I have read on the topic. Friedman concentrates on several themes throughout the book that combine lessons learned from decades of experience and research.

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

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