Self-Differentiated Voice

Now that I have a vision for my innovation plan, I need to communicate that vision effectively. With this comes the need for leadership and conversation. Doing this in a determined, decisive, and visionary way, while keeping my “wits” about me, is what it takes to reorient an organization, according to Edwin Friedman (203). 

Friedman talks about the importance for a leader to practice self-differentiation, or the capacity to become oneself with minimum reactivity to the positions for reactivity in others. In my organization, it will be important for me to continue to chart my course by using what I have learned this year as my own internal guidance system.  

There are, unfortunately, poorly differentiated leaders that could infect others with issues. They tend to create an emotional triangle, bringing other people into drama with them. It is important for self-differentiated leaders to avoid the triangle and tolerate the discomfort of others. Self-differentiated leaders also may be sabotaged by others, but will respond without anxiety, as this is the “key to the kingdom” (Camp, 2010).

A self-differentiated leader can have crucial conversations, while a poorly differentiated leader would struggle as their own anxieties take over. It is the integrity of this leader that promotes the integrity and will prevent the dis-integration of the ePortfolio team I have started building on my campus.

I will strive towards self-differentiation by continuing to clarify my own goals and not become lost in anxious emotional processes. I will strive to separate while still remaining connected and, therefore, maintain a modifying, non-anxious, and sometimes challenging presence (Friedman 15-16).

At the same time, I want to continue to be willing to encounter the unexpected. “The willingness to encounter the unexpected that Columbus and other explorers manifested not only can free minds from their sets; it also enables us to imagine the unimaginable.” This is what we must do in the face of every single odd, and only the most self-differentiated leader can do it. We need to imagine the unimaginable in education and be willing to have the most crucial conversations the world has ever heard.


Camp, J. [Mathew David Bardwell]. (2010, November 10). Friedman’s theory of differentiated leadership made simple [Video file]. Retrieved from

Friedman, E. H. (2017). A failure of nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix. Church Publishing. 

Crucial Conversations

A crucial conversation is one where the stakes are high, the opinions are different, and the emotions are strong. Many conversations in education are crucial conversations because children’s education is at stake, teachers have different teaching styles, and teaching is passionate. So, what do you do when you need to have a conversation about something as scary as change? You sit down with each other and LISTEN. In today’s digital age, it may seem like a waste of time to sit and talk instead of sending an email. However, we know how tone can get lost in typing, and true dialogue does not occur. To create change, we need to be able to talk about it – in person and together.

Having these conversations can be intimidating because we feel vulnerable, but in that vulnerability is where effective communication lies. We cannot be silent or passive, as this is lonely, ineffective, and wasteful. If we want to be successful we need to TALK about our innovation plan and our intentions for implementing the plan using the 6 Sources of Influence and 4DX, remembering the “why” throughout the conversation.

To have a crucial conversation with dialogue, We first need to know WHY we are having it. The start of the change is me, and the only person I can control is myself, so I need to focus on my own thoughts before I bring them to the table. The first step of the process is to start with the heart – to think about what I REALLY want. Once I have done that, I will look carefully around me and within. “What are we talking about? What is going on beneath the surface? Has this become crucial? Does everyone feel safe? Is a feeling of being unsafe leading to silence or violence?” At this point, we need to step back to safety to discuss mutual purpose and mutual respect. I also need to remember that an appropriate apology regains the safe space rather than admitting a weakness. Once we have gotten back on the right path, it is important to master my stories by getting in touch with my feelings and being honest with myself. Then I can move to STATE my path by sharing my facts, telling my story, asking for others’ paths, talking tentatively, and encouraging testing as I express my thoughts in a way that is direct but respectful. Once I’ve shared my story, it is vital that I LISTEN to others involved and get their perspectives. Only then can we turn the talk into action as we make good decisions TOGETHER (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2012). The key to having a crucial conversation is simple, but easier said than done – listen and speak respectfully.

I want to be a good leader, a self-differentiated leader that connects with others without losing my own identity (Camp, 2010). To be this self-differentiated leader I will have to be willing to have the hard conversations, the ones that others don’t. Because of my knowledge of the process of the crucial conversation, I now feel confident in myself to discuss my innovation plan, 6 Sources of Influence, 4DX, and anything else that comes my way. It is my responsibility as an educator and leader to speak up so that we give our students the best and allow them to reach their full potential. I’m here and I am ready to talk.


Callibrain. (2015, August 20). Video review for Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson [Video file]. Retrieved from

Camp, J. [Mathew David Bardwell]. (2010, November 10). Friedman’s theory of differentiated leadership made simple [Video file]. Retrieved from

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Crucial conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Vital Smarts India. (2012, February 10). Crucial conversations explained in two minutes [Video file]. Retrieved from