Can We Survive It?

TMC Digging A Deeper Well

They had become so focused on the aches and pains in the system that they had been thrown off course by the complaints. They had stopped supplying vision or had burned out fighting the resistance; they had ceased to be the strength in the system. In short, they had forgotten to lead.                                        

With this quote from Rabbi Edwin Friedman, Tod Bolsinger introduces his newest book, Tempered Resilience – How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of ChangeContinuing, Bolsinger writes:

“The question I find myself asking is not, ‘Can I learn the skills I need to lead change?’, but rather, ‘Can I survive it?’”  The senior pastor of a large church spoke these words to me in a whisper. But I had become accustomed to hearing similar thoughts from leaders in different organizations and in vastly different contexts. In fact, these words—repeated over and over again—inspired everything you are about to read.

“Can we survive it?” may not be the question your pastor is asking. But it is being asked often enough to have every church board stop and consider the stress and challenge of leadership in your setting and among your leaders as 2020 draws to a close.

Returning to Tempered Resilience… Bolsinger continues:

In this book, I want to talk about the processes and practices that develop tempered resilient change leaders who will be able to avoid what Edwin Friedman calls a “failure of nerve,” as well as what I call a “failure of heart.” Tempering a leader is a process of reflection, relationships, and practices during the act of leading that forms resilience to continue leading when the resistance is highest. It includes vulnerable self-reflection, the safety of relationships and specific spiritual practices and leadership skills in a rhythm of both work and rest.  It is hard, formative work.

Vulnerable self-reflection.

 The safety of relationships.

 Spiritual practices and leadership skills in the rhythm of work and rest.

 Each of these three conditions helps to “temper” a leader, in Bolsinger’s intriguing terminology, so that they can continue leading even when resistance is highest. And each, therefore, deserves careful discussion by your church board.

How are you as a board contributing to the process of “tempering” your leadership for resilience in this challenging time?

What opportunities does your board provide for you to have vulnerable self-reflection?

How would you judge the safety of relationships?   What makes for a “safe place” in your church and within your board?

How are you supporting the development of spiritual practices and leadership skills in a rhythm of work and rest?

Are you listening carefully enough to hear pastors and leaders – and perhaps yourself –  ask, “Can I survive it?”


We hope you will mark your calendars for an upcoming webinar conversation with Tod as he discusses his new book, Tempered Resilience, on Monday, November 23rd at 2 PM ET.  More details to follow soon!  Additionally, check out our March 28th webinar conversation with Tod, The Urgent Need to Lead, Not Manage, and May 25th podcast episode, Special Episode: Tod Bolsinger on His New Book, Leadership in a Time of Pandemic.

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