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Wrapping It Up

In the book "A Failure of Nerve" by Edwin Friedman, the author says that "leadership is an emotional process of regulating one's anxiety," which he calls self-differentiated leadership. His core premise is that the self-differentiated leader is one's inability to regulate and control one's anxiety and standing firm amid other people's emotional anxiety and reactivity. When this emotional stability is absent in leadership, he describes this as "a failure of nerve," which leads to an unhealthy, dysfunctional culture, spreading like an infectious disease throughout the organization.


The body's immune system defends the body against infection. One of its most critical tasks is recognizing and neutralizing harmful germs or cells, including disease-causing changes, i.e., cancer cells.


I equate the undisciplined, emotionally charged leader to an autoimmune disorder in which the system unknowingly attacks the healthy components of the host's body. I've been under leadership where they are reactive, emotionally unstable, and blame displacement. Their failure of indecisiveness led to a high turnover rate, ineffective communication, toxic positivity, and many program changes due to a quick-fix mentality. This person was later transferred to another middle school and promoted to the position of high-school principal. This individual was terminated after almost a decade of damage and only when their leadership began to affect graduation rates, and there was a rise in parental concerns.


Why was the person permitted to continue in dysfunctional behavior? I believe it was because we, the staff, were afraid to have crucial conversations necessary to change the culture. Instead, we responded with reactive emotions. I now understand that effective dialogue requires a safe environment to share perspectives and meanings.

However, as the model below shows, the process begins with me. I need to know my "why" in my heart to master my story and connect with my peers as we initiate a transformative paradigm shift.

Transformation is essential to the success and longevity of organizations and businesses. After reading the book Influencer, I've learned the heart is the birthplace of change. However, that isn't enough. Changing behaviors takes time, commitment, and accountability. The book suggests that we are influencers, and I realized I would need to expand my team of influencers.

 There are three steps to effect lasting change. These steps are:


  1. Clarify Measurable Results,

  2. Find Vital Behaviors, and

  3. Use the Six Sources of Influence.


Building on these components led to the development of my Influencer Strategy.


We've even identified our sources of influence to assist in creating sustainable change. Now, we need and must develop a stratagem of execution. The 4 Disciplines of Execution, by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling, suggests four actions, when properly practiced, allow for complete and successful planned results. The four disciplines are:

  1. The Discipline of Focus: Focus on the Wildly Important Goal (WIG)

  2. The Discipline of Leverage: Act on the Lead Measures

  3. The Discipline of Engagement: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard

  4. The Discipline of Accountability: Create a Cadence of Accountability


I developed my 4DX Implementation Plan and kept my eye out for the whirlwind. 4DX states that the "whirlwind" is the existing daily work or urgent daily tasks that tend to distract and sap us of our time, energy, and focus. Unfortunately, unlike the picture, the "whirlwind" doesn't announce itself. Therefore, we must be aware it exists, recognize it, and adjust. However, I was not prepared for the "whirlwind."  I realize now that identifying the "whirlwind" isn't enough when it is upon you. Unfortunately, I didn't plan for it, nor did I make timely adjustments. Did this cause failure? No, but I may have less stressful days and more sleep-filled nights if I had planned and prepared for the inevitable "whirlwind."


Friedman, E. H., Treadwell, M. M., & Beal, E. W. (2007). A failure of nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix. Seabury Books.

Grenny, J., & Patterson, K. (2013). Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change. McGraw-Hill Professional.

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2016). The 4 disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. Free Press.

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