Fortress Press

When the Center Does Not Hold: Leading in an Age of Polarization

When the Center Does Not Hold

Leading in an Age of Polarization

David R. Brubaker (Author), Everett Brubaker (Contributor), Carolyn Yoder (Contributor), Teresa J. Haase (Contributor)


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Over the past forty years, congregations, businesses, other organizations, and communities across the United States have become increasingly divided along political and ideological lines.

In When the Center Does Not Hold, David R. Brubaker, with contributions by colleagues Everett Brubaker, Carolyn Yoder, and Teresa J. Haase, offers relevant, practical mentorship on navigating polarized environments. Through easily accessible stories, they provide tools and processes that will equip leaders to both manage themselves and effectively lead others in highly polarized and anxious systems.

Coaching includes guidance on key characteristics of effective leadership in times of polarization: refusing contempt, honoring dignity, broadening binaries, seeking first to understand, inviting disagreement, and staying connected.

With years of combined experience in the fields of conflict transformation and organizational and leadership studies, Brubaker and his colleagues offer hope. Here, readers learn from leaders and communities that continue to renew the covenants that bind them, courageously address deeper needs that drive conflict, and hold on to a moral center while navigating the storms of polarization.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506453057
  • eBook ISBN 9781506453064
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 175
  • Publication Date November 5, 2019


A more timely volume could not have landed on my desk.

“The challenge of this century is not whether we will face tough and complex choices, live in divided communities, or feel in ourselves and others a powerful fear about the survival of what we may consider the essence of our identities. It is how we will choose to be and lead in the midst of these realities. This book offers a brilliant overview of contemporary dynamics around our divisions—political, social, and religious—and, more importantly, illustrates concrete pathways for how to lead with care, clarity, and understanding while navigating this age of polarization. A more timely volume could not have landed on my desk.”  

John Paul Lederach | University of Notre Dame

I highly recommend this book.

When the Center Does Not Hold is an important tool for those of us in congregational and denominational systems that seem to be flying apart in the midst of intense polarization. David R. Brubaker and his colleagues offer guidance through the layers of intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, and political transformation that need to occur as we seek to build bridges across our polarized divides. I highly recommend this book to leaders who particularly feel they are in over their heads in the waters of intense polarization."

Susan Nienaber | United Methodist Church

“Leading from the center is harder than ever. This timely book will serve as a valued resource for pastors and leaders who find themselves fenced in by the polarizing discourse and practice of our time.”

Christopher Edmonston | White Memorial Presbyterian Church

Astute academic insight with compassionate pastoral care.

“David R. Brubaker and his colleagues combine astute academic insight with compassionate pastoral care to guide us in the difficult challenge of social polarization. This clearly written book will help leaders and others know how to be a positive force for change.”

Ronald Richardson | Author