qualities of a leader
5304,  Masters - ADL

Self Differentiated Leader

The focus of this course was identifying internal characteristics that one possesses and how to influence others in your organization. The first unit focused on understanding why people do what they do. This was interesting as often many know ‘how’ and ‘when’ but not ‘why’ they do things. This was an eyeopener lesson, as each member in my group found their real reason they are educators. Throughout the course, the focus continued to look at the leader with the final lesson delineating the requirements to be a self-differentiated leader. Understanding the role of emotional processes within the system allows a leader to self-regulate their emotions, ultimately with the goal of detaching one’s emotions from the process. The benefit is to allow the leader to see the problem at hand and what is required to navigate the situation.   

Emotional Triangle Friedman

Friedman’s work on understanding how to become a self-differentiated leader is mind opening. He describes in detail how leaders become gridlocked by our own imagination. This imaginatively gridlocked system lays out how many people delusionally move throughout life with happenstance being the guide and how only novel thinking brings them to see that they have been living in a world constructed by their imagination. Understanding that emotional processes lead toward the imaginative gridlock is necessary to avoid delusions regarding reality.

However, conceptually stuck systems cannot be released through sheer grit.  The majority of issues leaders face are in the form of emotional triangles, which can be either positive or negative. The issue does not have to be between just individuals but can also be choices. Since a person not connected has no influence on the system, the problem is not being forced into the emotional triangle, but rather the leader reacts and guides the problem appropriately. Friedman gives guidance on how to spot the situation, and through this course many other tools were also given. 

Expect Resistance

As I move forward with my innovation plan, resistance will be inevitable as it is systematic in nature. No matter how well crafted my plan is, I will find people would rather stay in their frozen lives as it is comfortable and known. This will manifest as either sabotage and/or seduction. The biggest challenge in implementation will be to counteract the resistance. 

Why the Why?

In the process of becoming a self differentiated leader, I learned what makes me want to be a teacher. This knowledge is helpful since understanding what motivates a person is key to staying the course in times of turbulence. I may be accused of not understanding the purpose of the organization, so to counter this my training will need to incorporate the ‘why’ of the plan. I will need to look at why people teach and use the methods described by Dr. Jeni Cross, where I look at social norms to bring about change by incorporating modeling into my ‘why’ strategy. The biggest struggle will be to identify the core values that will motivate all groups to use as the launching point to create the social norms that will achieve the desired results. Remember that people cannot even identify what motivates them to behave the way they do, or understand what motivates them. I know that my ‘why’ is to see kids succeed in life, not just make the grade. I know that I must be ready for resistance but this foundation of purpose will help me as I navigate through the process of bringing everyone onboard and touching their hearts.

Influencer Strategy

To influence change in any organization we must understand behavior. This section focused on understanding human behavior and it applies to the leader as much as to the follower. Friedman says that “wherever the head goes, the body will follow.” The leader is the driving force of the organization and influencing behavior is more than just words, but also actions. I need to ensure that the right message is being sent to all of the organization. It is imperative that I do not fall victim to the emotional triangle. I keep my emotions out of the system as I stay connected, to influence change without creating an “Imaginative Gridlock.”   


Here we learned to stay focused and to make goals that included a specific date to achieve those goals. We must be wary of the goals we set as too many leads to failure of all goals. A focus in the book is understanding which goals should be achieved and which should be dismissed. The authors of 4DX highlighted this concept with a quote from co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, “I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.” Once we have narrowed the most important goals, we can find the wildly important goal. We must consider what measures we should take. In the 4DX plan, we are to keep the scoreboard simple, too much data is a major failure of many leaders. With that we must also be careful to collect data that supports the ultimate goals. According to Friedman in regard to the overabundance of data, leaders and their followers confuse information with expertise, know-how with wisdom, change with almost anything new and complexity with profundity. Data for data’s sake leads us nowhere, and leaders must know how to turn data into meaningful progress.

Crucial Conversations

As a leader in organizational change, I must stay focused on the ultimate goal without being swayed by emotions from my team. Overall, I cannot afford empathy when I want them to be self-regulating. Instead I must perform the central leadership role of increasing the autonomy of all in the organization. When a leader leads through empathy, then everyone is forced into the state of the lowest maturity level people in the organization, complete with all the emotional struggles therein. This has the effect of making the team rely heavily on the leader to prop up insecurity and immaturity.

During the unit over crucial conversations, I learned the skills to master conversations that most people will avoid. These are heavily emotion-laden and typically avoided. All too often people, from leaders to the lowest people in the organization, struggle with the ability to communicate without losing to their emotions. While this is human nature, common sense can only take us as far as it has already been learned or pieced together. Likewise our ability to overcome our emotions only comes with practice and having these vital conversations without all of the emotions. Finally, achieving the pinnacle point of our journey where we can step out of the emotional bondage while staying grounded in the system, such as the organization, allows for the leader to point the direction out and the followers to make their own path. 


Grenny, J. (2012). Crucial conversations. McGraw Hill.

Grenny, J. (2013). Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change. McGraw-Hill Education.

Huling, J. (2012). 4 Disciplines of execution – achieving your wildly important goals. Simon & Schuster.

Image 1: Boston College. Crucial Conversations Model. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://www.bc.edu/content/bc-web/offices/human-resources/sites/employee-development/programs/crucial-conversations.html

Kotter, J. (2011, March 23). The heart of change. . Retrieved October 22, 2022, from https://youtu.be/1NKti9MyAAw

Sinek, S. (2009, September 28). Start with why — how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | tedxpugetsound. YouTube. Retrieved October 22, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA

Three Myths of Behavior Change – What You Think You Know That You Don’t. (2013). YouTube. Retrieved November 13, 2022, from https://youtu.be/l5d8GW6GdR0

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