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Leaders and conflict management

Leadership is important to the success of our families, businesses, and communities. It seems to be inevitable that when we get two or more people together, eventually there will be some conflict. How do effective leaders handle conflict? Is conflict good or bad? What role does conflict play in meeting goals?

We all know those leaders who just seem to be able to handle conflict well. We also all know those leaders who avoid conflict at all costs. What separates effective leaders from the leaders who avoid conflict because they just don’t have the skills to deal with it? Because conflict can be defined as a difference between two or more people or groups and usually contains tension, high emotions, and disagreement we all know how often conflict occurs. Effective leaders understand that managing conflict is an essential function in today’s world. Using leadership skills such as listening, empathy, and healing effective leaders can manage conflict and get people to accept that they will not always agree on everything.

When leaders recognize that conflict is really not a bad thing, organizations can begin to work toward addressing conflict as an important element to reaching goals. When leaders are surrounded with people who always agree with everything, “groupthink” develops. When “groupthink” is prevalent in an organization, people become complacent and rarely make and reach new goals. In addition, “groupthink” can promote a sense of over confidence in the leader and the followers. It is critical that leaders promote an environment where employees are expected to communicate their disagreements or differences in opinions.

In order for organizations to grow and meet the ever changing demands of the clients, leaders and followers must be able to engage in conflicting thoughts. Organizations that are characterized by having and environment where conflict is managed, tend to be more successful, more innovative, and more attuned to competitive advantage.

Leadership involves so many parts of the overall functioning of any organization or group. Handling conflict is a daily task and should be approached with some skill. In order to become more effective in handling conflict, consider the tips that follow:

· Take some time to LISTEN….really, listen!

· Seek out mentors in leadership roles who can be great examples of conflict managers

· Network

Baggerly-Hinojosa (2010). Are You a 10? USA: Lulu Publishers.

Kohlreiser, G. (2004). Hostage at the table. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.