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How servant leaders manage conflict

Is conflict really a bad thing? In his book, The Journey to Competitive Advantage through Servant Leadership (2012), author Bill B. Flint, Jr. describes ten beliefs that are held by Servant Leaders when trying to resolve conflict. Effective leaders recognize that constructive conflict is good for any organization. Handled correctly, conflict can promote creative thinking and problem solving, leading to more productive employees. According to George Kohlrieser (2006), “conflict can be defined as a difference between two or more persons or groups characterized by tension, emotionality, disagreement, and polarization when bonding is broken or completely lacking” (p. 102). An effective leader is able to manage conflict by negotiating toward a common goals and a shared vision. Dealing with conflict involves building and rebuilding relationships with others as well as establishing and re-establishing common goals. However, many aspects of relationships are not rational because people often act emotionally instead of logically. Many emotions such as fear, anger, and frustration may get in the way of logical thought and behavior. When emotions overwhelm reason, working with others in a productive way can be hindered. However, logic alone can not develop and sustain quality relationships with others. It is essential that we find a balance between logic and emotions in order to build relationships strong enough to manage conflict.

As described by Bill B. Fint, Jr., the following ten beliefs can help Servant Leaders when managing conflict:

o Check egos at the door – Servant Leaders have learned to make sure that they do not let their ego get in the way of understanding and resolving conflict.

o Allow every person to be right (to some extent) – When working through conflict, Servant Leaders recognize that they are not right all the time.

o Conflict should not be personal – Servant Leaders understand that conflict management is not about WHO is right but about what is best for the organization or group.

o Patience, patience, patience – Time and effort are required if conflict is truly going to be managed.

o Stay humble – Recognize that no one person has all the answers.

o Allowing others to present their perspective – Listening and Empathy are characteristics of a Servant Leader. Servant Leaders actively listen and try to understand the perspective of others.

o Stay in the positive – Negative words can lead the discussions in the wrong direction and will not work toward conflict management.

o Keep emotions under control – Servant Leaders understand that people say things that they might not necessarily mean when their emotions are out of control.

o Watch body language – When managing conflict, words spoken only make up a part of the conversation. Servant Leaders understand that their tone, body language, and expressions communicate more than the words spoken.

o Commit to the resolution – Servant Leaders understand that once the conflict is over, it is over. No grudges are held and the same conflict is not revisited.

Flint, B. (2012). The journey to competitive advantage through servant leadership. Westbow

Press: US.

Kohlrieser, G. (2006). Hostage at the table. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA.

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