What makes a good leader?

What makes a good leader?

This is a great question and one that I believe Dr. Edwin Friedman in his book A Failure of Nerve addresses quite well as outlined below in three brief concepts described in video as well.

From the boardroom to the dining room, the fundamentals of leadership in a systemic perspective revolve around one idea: anxiety. According to Friedman, a leader is one who can effectively manage their own anxiety and not be troubled when others express negative emotions to them. This first concept would described as being differentiated, meaning effective leaders know themselves and are comfortable in their own skin, even if others do not like their views at all times. That does not mean they are apathetic or cold, but more so unshakeable. Friedman describes it like so:

“A differentiated leader can take a well defined stand even while followers disagree while remaining connected in a meaningful way to others.”

Secondly, Friedman discusses how poorly differentiated individuals, almost like unstable atoms if you are a science-minded person, go searching for a third party to share their problems with and pull them into the problem to manage their own anxiety. This is called triangulation. Generally, whether it’s your 3 year old, marital partner, or co-worker, it becomes tempting to get sucked into the drama, causing greater problems such as burnout because you become infected with the anxiety now, but the problem remains! Yikes! So Friedman warns to stay away from other people’s problems (contra to the anthem of Naughty by Nature- don’t get down with OPP!). Don’t get triangulated. Instead, be empathetic but remove yourself from being involved in the actual issue. An effective leader is able to tolerate the anxiety of others and continue onward.

And thirdly, a well-differentiated leader can expect protest from individuals, perhaps even sabotage. Sabotage comes when a healthy, differentiated leader enters a chronically anxious organization, home, or marriage. Healthy leadership emerges as the well-differentiated individual responds non-anxiously to the anxiety of those around him or her. To learn more, watch this brief video below. If you want help for yourself, your marriage, family, or organization, please feel free to reach out for more information on how Scout can help you become a more effective leader wherever that may be.