Being a Self-Differentiated Leader

leadershipUpon reading Friedman’s book,  A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix, I learned what it means to be a differentiated leader. I also discovered that, like life itself, becoming a self-differentiated leader is a journey not a destination. We may never reach the state of being a fully differentiated person but it is a direction we follow in life, improving and tending to our “self” along the way. Friedman suggests that if we can become a self-differentiated person, we can be a successful leader in our group – family, church, business, school, etc. So I began thinking, how can I use this book to improve my “self”? How can I become a self-differentiated leader? Will Friedman’s ideas help me implement the plans I have for Lamar University or at least get the ball rolling in the right direction towards change? At the moment, I lack several attributes of a self-differentiated leader which means I have my work cut out for me! However, if I can begin to apply some of the key concepts in the book, which I will identify below, I can start my journey towards effective, self-differentiated leadership.

I expect that my efforts to bring about changes in our learning environments with mobile learning will be met with much rejection and resistance from our faculty and possibly administration. So I must be persistent in the face of resistance and downright rejection. Let’s face it, I’m not in a position to make the big decisions on campus. Why would faculty or administration listen to me? It’s human nature to resist change especially when some think changes aren’t needed. However, I’ve got to be persistent to get the results we are after. Some faculty will be resistant to incorporate mobile learning and some will reject it all together. But that’s OK, I will continue to move forward with my efforts because I believe it’s the direction we need to go. In the end, persistence will pay off.

As a leader for change I should function as the immune system in order to distinguish “self from non-self” and to “preserve my integrity”. While trying implement what I think are positive changes for Lamar, it’s imperative to stay the course and stay immune to the stress or anxiety the initiative may cause. Faculty may express thoughts of displeasure and try to dissuade me from encouraging use of mobile devices for one reason or another. Despite their complaints I must adhere to my strategies so that our students get the best learning experience possible. Faculty can express their distaste, they have every right to, but their opinions and beliefs cannot muddle my own. I can’t lose focus of the task at hand, no matter what.

I will have to stay emotionally stable and non-reactive. With change comes a lot of “growing pains” and the process will be uncomfortable at times. But through continued positive efforts, a positive attitude, and a cool head I can get a lot accomplished. I can show faculty that mobile learning in the classroom is a good thing for all of us. In addition, I will have to keep a sense of adventure, not be afraid to make mistakes. Mobile learning can open so many doors for our faculty and students if we use our creativity and just give it a try! Our mistakes will only keep us moving forward, constantly learning which techniques work and those that don’t. These learning experiences foster knowledge building and growth towards a new culture of learning and teaching.

Lastly, I must maintain a non-anxious response to sabotage—there will be faculty or administration that will try and block, or sabotage, any efforts to implement mobile learning in the classroom. But by maintaining confidence and control in the face of rejection and sabotage, I can begin to make headway little by little.


To be a leader, one must both have and embody a vision of where one wants to go. It is not a matter of knowing or believing one is right; it is a matter of taking the first step. — E.H. Friedman


I could go on and on about the ideas and concepts in Friedman’s book regarding how to become a differentiated person, and how to use those concepts to become a self-differentiated leader. However, the few key factors I chose to highlight will get me off to a good start. It’s clear that differentiation is not a state of being but something you practice daily. He insists that by “continually working on one’s self differentiation, a leader can optimize their objectivity and decision-making capacity”. This is book is definitely worth a read as it can be applied to being a leader not only in our professional lives, but our personal lives as well.


Friedman, E. H. (2007). A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix. New York, NY: Church Publishing, Inc.

Definition of Leadership” by NY is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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Hello! I am currently an eLearning Support Specialist at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I just completed the Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar to earn my M. Ed. degree. Thank you for visiting my site!

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Posted in Leading Organizational Change
5 comments on “Being a Self-Differentiated Leader
  1. […] I learned that the best, most effective leaders are those that are self-differentiated. Being a self-differentiated leader is a direction in life and something that a leader works at daily. It highlights the importance of […]

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  2. […] showed me how it’s possible to lead change. Tools such as the Influencer Strategy, 4DX, and Friedman’s book,  A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix prepared me for the challenges ahead. This program has motivated and encouraged me to share my […]

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  3. […] on this innovation project has taught me a lot about planning, research, and what it takes to be a leader and change agent. First it taught me what disruptive innovation was and how to identify it. My […]

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  4. […] on this innovation project has taught me a lot about planning, research, and what it takes to be a leader and change agent. First it taught me what disruptive innovation was and how to identify it. My […]

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  5. […] for overcoming and managing resistance to change. In this course, I learned what it means to be a self-differentiated leader as well as developed a 6 Sources of Influence Matrix and 4DX presentation to support my […]

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