A Failure of Nerve, Revised, 10th Anniversary Edition

Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix

Edwin H. Friedman, Foreword by Peter Steinke

May/2017, 288 Pages, PAPERBACK, 6x9

ISBN-13: 9781596272798



• Magnum opus of leading figure in application of family systems theory to congregations
• Widely used in seminary and continuing education since 2007 first publication
• Revised 10th anniversary edition of best-seller

Ten years after his death, Edwin Friedman's best-selling A Failure of Nerve continues to offer insights into leadership that are more urgently needed than ever, and this revised, anniversary edition 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 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. His understandings 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 argued 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

A Failure of Nerve was unfinished at the time of Friedman's death and originally published in a limited edition. This new edition cleans up some oversights in the original and brings his life-changing insights and challenges to a new generation of readers.

"Reading this book is like discovering an unpublished Beethoven sonata or a missing play of Shakespeare. Ed Friedman was one of our most brilliant, original, and provocative thinkers across the fields of therapy, ministry, and organizational leadership."
—Professor William J. Doherty, Director, Marriage and Family Therapy Program, University of Minnesota

Audience: Clergy, vestries, other lay leaders. Those interested in how they can adapt to the change they see coming while retaining core identity. Seminary, continuing education, CPE, small groups. Broad reach to all leaders, not just those of congregations.

Read the introduction

Edwin Friedman was an ordained rabbi and practicing family therapist. His ground-breaking volume Generation to Generation, which exposed the connections between emotional processes at home and at work in religious, educational, therapeutic, and business systems, has become a modern classic. In great demand as a consultant and public speaker throughout the country, he lived in Washington DC. He died in 1996.

"The age that is upon us requires differentiated leadership that is willing to rise above the anxiety of the masses. We need leaders who will have the "capacity to understand and deal effectively" with the hive mind that is us. This is, in Friedman's words, 'the key to the kingdom.' I am grateful for this accessible new edition."
—C. Andrew Doyle, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Texas

"In seminary, I learned to exegete scripture, to craft a sermon, to think theologically. I did not learn how to lead a congregation. In A Failure of Nerve, Ed Friedman invites leaders to cast a courageous and imaginative vision, to lead resiliently, and to be present and steady in times of deep anxiety; qualities of leadership more urgently needed now than at any time in my memory. My students find excitement and energy in the adventure of leadership Ed invites us to embrace.
—Gina Campbell, Visiting Professor of Worship, Wesley Theological Seminary, and Adjunct Faculty, Center for Family Process

"Perhaps more than ever, we need to prepare ourselves for increasing our maturity, which means taking responsibility for our own emotional functioning. As Friedman's mentor, Murray Bowen, succinctly reminded us, 'If you lower anxiety one notch, it's a better world.' We all owe thanks to Edwin Friedman for helping us in this process."
— Peter L. Steinke, author of How Your Church Family Works and other books (from foreword)

Praise for the First Edition:
"Reading this book is like discovering an unpublished Beethoven sonata or a missing play of Shakespeare. Ed Friedman was one of our most brilliant, original, and provocative thinkers across the field of therapy, ministry and organizational leadership."
—William H. Doherty, Professor of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota

"Ed Friedman is even more relevant today than at his death in 1996, and through these pages speaks again with his characteristically playful yet penetrating insight. This book offers a new generation of leaders the skills that promote prophetic spine and pioneering breakthroughs."
—Ed Bacon, former Rector, All Saints Church, Pasadena, California

Click For a Book Preview



  • Leadership
  • Congregational Vitality
  • Organizational Health

You May Also Like

The Myth of the Shiksa and Other Essays

Edwin H. Friedman$24.95

Soul at Work

Margaret Benefiel$24.95

Faithful Generations

John R. Mabry$24.95

What We Do in Lent

Anne E. Kitch, Illustrations by Dorothy Thompson Perez$9.95

Where Two or Three Are Gathered

Daniel L. Prechtel$24.95

Wholeness After Betrayal

Robin Hammeal-Urban, Foreword by Ian T. Douglas$19.95