In my doctoral work back in 2008-2009, I spent time reading the concepts expressed by Edwin Friedman. Friedman was a family therapist and his counseling approach was heavily influenced by is known as family systems theory.

Building on his work in the book Generation to Generation, Friedman’s family posthumously published a collection of his writings in book called A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. In it, his understanding of leaders as “self-differentiated or well-differentiated.”

Friedman illustrated good “self-differentiated” leadership by revealing it in many of the great Renaissance explorers. These explorers were leaders who had:

  • the capacity to separate oneself from surrounding emotional processes
  • the capacity to obtain clarity about one’s principles and vision
  • the willingness to be exposed and be vulnerable
  • the persistence to face inertial resistance
  • the self-regulation of emotions in the face of reactive sabotage

In the following video, the speaker explains self-differentiation in a way that is easy to understand.

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