Leadership Qualities: Different vs. Differentiation

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves. They therefore remain bound. – James Allen, As A Man Thinketh

What sets you apart from other leaders?

Hugh Ballou
Hugh Ballou, Transformational Leadership Strategist

When I began my current journey as a leadership resource for corporate executives, pastors, social benefit leaders, entrepreneurs, and solopreneur thought leaders, I observed similar behaviors and patterns in leadership execution, regardless of the type of enterprise. My desire was to bring different strategies and systems to leaders stuck in the same routine and not getting the results they desired or deserved. I didn’t subscribe to the old “Tried and True” methods. In my various leadership roles, I had to think and act in creative ways in order to address and overcome the systemic problems of the organizations that I lead. I, therefore, challenged myself to come up with alternative systems that worked, and worked consistently in a variety of circumstances, and had the power and flexibility to be adapted for use in creative impactful ways.

I realized that, in order to transform others and help others to transform organizations, I needed to transform myself and my methodology first. My journey took a turn that impacted my life and my work. That journey continues.

It was and is important that I stay true to my guiding principles and differentiation of self (in Bowen terms), therefore, I differentiate myself by how I teach leadership and how I engage clients to be successful.

When I first started the journey in my third career (1. retail merchant/photo lab, 2. church musician, 3. leadership strategist and culture architect) ten years ago, I tried to present myself as a meeting facilitator. I quickly discovered that teams could surpass the ability of the leader and the plans broke down. I then positioned myself as a leadership coach. There are too many styles of coaching and what the world does not need is one more life coach, so I began to create the new identity as a marketing tool.

Now my differentiation is being true to the principles I know to be true and to assist others in discovering their own leadership skills and principles. Our leadership grows from what’s already inside of us.

People first asked me, “What does a conductor know about leadership?” and I now reply, “I’m a conductor and I know about leadership!” My differentiation is that I have skills and knowledge that work – it’s not just theory. I wanted to be different. It’s not different that matters. It’s the relevance of differentiation that provides value.

What is differentiation to you?

Here are some thoughts on the topic – the word is used in many ways. Discover your own meaning.


Murray Bowen

This paper is on the Bowen Center website under the 8 Concepts tab. A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality. Thoughtfully acquired principles help guide decision-making about important family and social issues, making him less at the mercy of the feelings of the moment. What he decides and what he says matches what he does. He can act selflessly, but his acting in the best interests of the group is a thoughtful choice, not a response to relationship pressures. Confident in his thinking, he can either support another’s view without being a disciple or reject another view without polarizing the differences. He defines himself without being pushy and deals with pressure to yield without being wishy-washy.

Read the post…


Seth Godin

Differentation by marketers has a long and obvious history. When you see competition, you differentiate.

…the opportunity is to actually create something that people choose to talk about, regardless of what the competition is doing.

Read the post…


Michael Porter

José Almeida talks about Michael Porter’s strategic planning systems. The key success factor in a differentiation strategy is to make it either very difficult or very expensive for rivals to replicate your product or service.

Read the post…


Hugh Ballou
The Transformational Leadership Strategist

Subscribe to The Transformational Leadership Strategist by Email

(c) 2013 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.
Hugh Ballou (Author)