Saturday, June 02, 2007


It happens all the time. A group is discussing something, anything, and one member expresses her opinion and someone in the group gasps, eyes get wide and says something like "Oh my Gosh!" At that moment the intensity of the room immediately ramps up and folks gear for a show-down. It happens when a family gathers in a hospital room to hear the prognosis from a physician. One member of the family, upon hearing some trigger word, audibly gasps and says "Oh no! not that!" And family members' anxiety ramps up exponentially before the physician is done speaking.
The late Edwin Friedman's excellent book "A Failure of Nerve; leadership in the age of the quick fix" has a chapter on those people who have the gift of transforming...down. A proper transformer (like we had in railroad sets) takes high voltage electricity and brings it down to a useable level for a toy train. Otherwise the power from the wall would melt down the train. A good leader knows how to take the high-voltage energy that comes from anxiousness and tansform it down to a workable level. Friedman's whole premise (that I read years ago in "Generation to Generation") is that a good leader is well differentiated; knows who he or she is, practices non-anxious presence, and knows how to take a stand and stay in contact with his or her community.
There are those people, over the years, that have found have the gift to transform up almost any conversation into the stratosphere of anxiety, worry and anger. They seemed primed to blow and almost anything or any one. Then there are those who transform down, who can hear my ranting and raving and ask some perceptive questions, find a deeper truth, even tell me a joke. I'm hoping to become more of a transformer down, taking energy and words and transforming them into something useful and beneficial to my family, church and community.


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