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Self-Differentiated Leadership and Your Organization

What Is Self-Differentiated Leadership? Let me first start by acknowledging leadership is hard work! Being a leader has it's own set of challenges, and being a self-differentiated leader can be even more of a challenge. As leaders we are human too and we have emotions just like everyone else. A self-differentiated leader is described as someone who is less likely to become lost in the anxious emotional processes swirling about within the organization they lead. Someone who can separate while still remaining connected, and therefore can maintain a modifying, non-anxious, and sometimes challenging presence. Someone who can manage his or her own reactivity to the automatic reactivity of others, and therefore be able to take a stands at the risk of displeasing others.

How Does It Work? Skills and techniques are keys to effective leadership, but I would also add that leadership is a character process and not just an intellectual one. In a video I watched recently, it helped me to draw a comparison to leaders in an organization and cell biology. It mentioned a healthy cell has a nucleus which controls the activity of the cell and a cell membrane which keeps the cell separate from other cells. Each cell is self-differentiated because each cell has a different purpose. A heart cell pumps blood; a lung cell contributes to breathing; a kidney cell purifies blood and so on. Not only are we humans made up of these cells, we function like them. We also form ourselves into groups, whether these are families, companies, or nations. Like an individual cell, a self-differentiated person can be a part of the larger unit as well as having his or her own identity and purpose.

When Poor Differentiation Exist? To this point, as a self-differentiated leader we can act as the emotional immune system of an organization. We can do this by acting as a non-anxious presence, resist being triangled

,and influencing others to take responsibility. Unfortunately, some people in our organizations are poorly differentiated. They easily succumb to the anxieties that beset the organization in times of change. To ease their pain, they seek others to share their anxiety as a way of lessening their pain. However, by focusing on it, and recruiting others to it, they spread the anxiety. It is like a virus which have no nucleus and no purpose other than to seek out others and infect the greater body. As a leader, if we are more concerned with good feelings than with progress, and allowing our lives to revolve around the axis of consensus, we can get sucked into this.

How Does Self-Differentiation Benefit My Organization? It is the integrity of the leader that promotes the integrity of the group, or prevents the disintegration of the system he or she is leading. When we as leaders have the integrity to do what's right regardless of the circumstances and the situation it enabled us and our people to get through the change. Fortunately, at key moments of serious change, there are people in our organizations who are immune to the infection through their self-differentiation. By being a non-anxious presence and not reacting to the anxiety of others in the way others want, these self-differentiated people are able to tolerate other people's discomfort without the need to lose connection with them. This helps to transform the anxiety from a negative effect to a positive one. In short, they are the antidote to the infection and so healers of the organization.

Your Self-Differentiated Leadership and Your Organization. As the leader of an organization, we must want to be one of these self-differentiated people. Poorly differentiated leaders can have a serious negative impact on a group. It can lead us to tolerate negative behaviors, and even worse by taking part in the behaviors, and even escalating it. Skill and technique is something we as leaders should continue to hone, but we should also focus on the central task. The central task being ourselves. By working on ourselves, engaging in personal development, we then lead out of a more effective and self-differentiated place. Self-differenitated leaders are a great asset to their organizations, because as we grow we are in a better position to grow our organizations. Organizations benefit from leaders who have self-knowledge and self-control. Those who show levels of maturity, strength and continuous self- improvement - that's the self-differentiation leader.


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