Leadership and Conflict

“The lack of conflict destroys companies” (Pat Lencioni). One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is conflict. However, healthy conflict can produce results and a healthier work environment. Conflict, when used properly, is something that can shed new light, new ideas, and help companies and organizations reflect on what is most important and what needs to change. How you approach conflict is what will make or break your company or organization.

Angie Morgan, former Captain in the Marine Corp., once said, “Leaders approach conflict with an eye for resolution. When handled effectively, successful confrontations raise team performance. To manage conflict effectively, you must begin by recognizing there are three sides to every story.” Conflict is not about who is right or wrong. Conflict is about coming together to understand the issue(s) and working through the problem to find a resolution. When done correctly, confrontation can create an environment that is accepting and open for dialogue. When people work in an environment that hinders or steers clear of conflict, forward momentum will eventually stop.

Conflict does not have to be verbal. Conflict, in many cases, is a silent killer within the workplace. Conflict can create deep seeded issues within an organization. When situations or issues are not talked about or discussed, walls are built among employees, management, and leadership. As a leader, it is your responsibility to seek out these conflicts with an open engagement to seek out a positive and encouraging solution. Leadership must set the expectations for the rest to follow. If conflict is not dealt with in a positive, respectful, and healthy manner, that conflict will bury your company or organization.

Something you must always remember, conflict resolution is not about WHO is right but rather WHAT is right. When resolving conflict, especially if you are part of that conflict, do NOT focus on being right. Pride comes before the fall, and when we hold onto the idea that we ARE right, our pride will get the better of us. Instead, find humility, actively and openly listen, and seek to find a common ground. Whether you are right or wrong doesn’t matter. What matters most is the preservation of the relationship.

The number one problem conflict creates is erosion and destruction of relationships. As a leader, it is essential that maintaining positive, healthy, and empowering relationships be the top priority. We tend to destroy relationships when we walk around thinking we are always right. This is why humility is so important in leadership. When there is conflict, whether you are involved or not, it is critical to remember that relationships should rise above pride. As a leader, you need to be the example in what this looks like. You need to show the importance of relationships in your company or organization. You need to express the value of listening, understanding, and humility.

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly” (Jim Rhon). When conflict arises in your company or organization, remember the power of humility. Remember that relationships are more important than who’s right or who’s wrong. As a leader, confront conflict with an attitude of humility and restoration. The goal is to learn, build, and establish a deeper, more meaningful relationship with those of whom we may have conflict. And never forget, leadership is not about titles, charts, and graphs. Leadership is about one life influencing another.

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