20. Self-differentiated Leadership and Crucial Conversations.

Leaders in school are everywhere. From my point of view, teachers may assume lots of roles at school with the ultimate goal to support student success. In my organization, one of the goals that is shared informally is building capacity in others with the sole purpose of being better educators each day. With that being said, I cannot do that without being a learner. I am always willing to explore new strategies. My hope is that such enthusiasm and passion encourages others in using those same strategies or approaches to have a positive impact on student learning.

Being a teacher leader does not come easily. I am a passionate educator that has unique opinions about what student learning should look like, and sound like in the classroom. In order to build capacity in others, I have the responsibility to be vulnerable and showcase what I do in my classroom. I am not perfect but I am looking for excellence in what I do.

The key factors for me to become a self-differentiated leader are to turn negative comments into negative, have a growth mindset, be vulnerable and have grit. Change is not easy. Every year educators hear about new initiatives that are in place. Some teachers have lost trust in their leaders and comply with the implementation of the initiatives. However, such compliance takes school leaders to unsuccessful results and mistrust in organizational change.

As a self-directed leader, one who is invested in being vulnerable and taking risks, I need to be ready to manage conversations that will promote change and create a mindshift in others. Such conversations will make me revisit “WHY” I do what I do as an educator. I used to avoid crucial conversations, but everything I do is with the solely purpose of making a positive impact in student learning, which encourages me to continue taking risks. The book “Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high” shares a 7-step primer on managing crucial conversations strategy which I will use to encourage others in implementing Blended Learning in my context.

  1. Start with heart. When I ask myself what I really want and what’s at stake, I come to the same conclusion. I am committed to be a better educator everyday so that I can provide the best education possible to each one of my students because they are the future of the current society. The world is changing rapidly and I feel I am stagnant in the way I teach my students. Technology advancements, and changes in society brought by COVID-19 have made a huge impact in the way students are taught and the tools that are available to do so. When talking to my colleagues, they agree on such changes; however, no action is being taken and that’s what starts crucial conversations.
  2. Learn to look. This is a step I have to get better at as I get defensive when colleagues start making comments against what I do or the way I do blended learning in my room. The mindshift I have to make is channeling that energy into leading the conversation with dialogue. When talking to my colleagues, I want to be on the lookout for a lack of mutual purpose. Not all people are ready to have a conversation that encourages them to initiate change. But when finding teachers who have a mutual purpose (being a learner) I need to be able to remember WHY I want to implement blended learning. The least I want to do is to force ideas into anyone. I want to showcase how I implement Blended Learning (BL) and the results I have gotten so far.
  3. Make it safe. Implementing Blended Learning might sound a huge change to teachers. However, what they have not realized yet is that BL has been around for years. In addition to that, COVID-19 forced teachers and stakeholders to speed up the implementation of certain components and models. How does this fit in this step? When having crucial conversations with teachers, I can take the time to listen to the experiences they had when implementing remote learning, using devices in the classrooms, having students off-campus and face-to-face. Why is this important? These are situations and events that teachers have in common and is a safe place to show interest in the experience they had.
  4. Master your story. When sharing what I do in my classroom and how Blended Learning has impacted student learning, I need to be prepared to respond with passion without being defensive. Grace . Not everyone has the same experiences; however, most of the teachers I work with have a passion for learning and willing to become better educators. From my perspective, I need to act with grace focusing on what teachers have experienced, rather than focusing on what has happened to me. In other words, if I want to promote change, I am to take ownership of myself and my emotions and be able to respond to others with my story and why I do what I do without diminishing what other in what other educators believe.
  5. State your path. The most effective way for me to state my path is by showcasing what I do in my classroom. The evidence of implementing Blended Learning will help me talk about my successes and failures. Why are failures important in this step? In order to grow, I need failure. When this happens, I go into a process of rethinking and reconsidering the steps I am taking when implementing Blended Learning. Successes are expected to be shared but most teachers focus on how I have tackled the struggles I have had throughout the process. These are some of the things I can do to state my path:
    • In weekly PLCs, I will showcase student work that highlights one component of Blended Learning. Instead of doing a different component every week, I will focus on one component a month. By doing this I can lead the path for other teachers who want to do Blended Learning in their classrooms.
    • I will create a website to start telling my story. This will allow teachers to have a place of guidance available to them at any time.
  6. Explore others’ paths. When having a crucial conversation about Blended Learning (BL) in the weekly PLCs, I need to know where other teachers are coming from before I am able to respond to their comments or questions. My goal is not to force anyone in doing BL in their rooms. My ultimate goal is to inspire others to impact student learning, increase engagement and support students in their quest to become productive citizens. Something I have realized is that most teachers went into education because they want kids to have a successful future. But this entails providing them the tools to be able to be successful on their own. Finding a place in which both educators agree on will allow for some dialogue when navigating the crucial conversation.  
  7. Move to action. Crucial conversations cannot be left open. When having these conversations in PLC, roles need to be assigned so that action steps can be documented. It is important to know who, what, when steps are happening. By doing this, the team of teachers will hold themselves accountable. Writing goals as action steps will allow the team to achieve bite-size goals so that successes can be celebrated and help them feel more confident and comfortable with change.

As a self-directed leader, one who is passionate about student learning, I need to learn how to navigate crucial conversations. Having a growth mindset will help me achieve this goal by giving me the courage to be vulnerable and share not only my successes but also my failures.


Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2002). Crucial conversations. McGraw-Hill Contemporary.

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