What Should Leaders Do About Conflict?

Kevin Nash, PhD

Conflict is natural and necessary and it has the potential to be beneficial or destructive. An important role of organizational and community leaders is to leverage conflict towards productive ends. When effectively managed, conflict has the potential to promote individual and professional development and enhance performance outcomes.

Unresolved conflict, on the other hand, has the potential to damage relationships and  disrupt the work environment, depress teamwork, lower morale and increase stress. Left unresolved, conflict can poison the atmosphere and thereby negatively affect people who are not directly involved.

How we understand, approach, and manage our own conflicts and facilitate the resolution of conflicts among others is critical to being an effective and ethical leader. Effective leaders understand the sources and types of conflict that arise among individuals, groups, and organizations, and are aware of their own communication and conflict management style.

Here are some suggestions for what a leader can do about managing conflict effectively:

  • Be alert for conflict in the organization and recognize the sources and types of conflict among individuals and groups.
  • Distinguish between constructive conflict – the type that can contribute to individual and group performance, versus destructive conflict – the type that damages working relationships.
  • Understand and assess the influence of factors that can cause conflict such as cultural differences, demographic differences (e.g. gender, race, etc.), differences in values, personality clashes, and different communication styles, to name just a few.
  • Develop effective communication skills such as active listening and “talking tentatively” that are central to the successful resolution of conflict.

Unfortunately it seems that many people in leadership positions are conflict averse and adopt the “ignore it and hope it goes away” strategy to conflict resolution. Of course sometimes this strategy might be the right one to take – for example when the conflict is relatively trivial and the protagonists seem to be able to work things out between themselves.  In many cases, however, effective leaders need to step into a conflict to calm overheated emotions and inject some rational thinking.

A few leaders seem to have a natural ability to handle conflict, but many leaders need training in the tools and techniques of conflict resolution to be able to handle conflicts effectively. Thankfully there are a number of courses and self-help books available and these can be of great value in helping leaders develop their conflict handling skills. Like all skills, however, before becoming proficient, leaders need to practice their conflict resolution skills so they are ready when the situation becomes heated, emotions are running high, and rational thinking is in short supply!
 
 
 
 
nashDr. Kevin Nash divides his time between teaching at Albertus Magnus College and providing consulting services to corporate clients. After more than twenty years’ experience in sales, marketing, and human resources with major corporations, Kevin started his own consulting practice in 2006 and since then has worked with clients in a wide range of industries in the USA, Europe, Africa, and Asia. His area of specialty is helping organizations hire and develop talented employees.

Kevin has a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Capella University, an MA in Management from The University of Kent, UK, and a Diploma in Marketing from the Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland. He is a member of the Society for Human Resources Management and a Board Member of the Institute for Behavioral and Applied Management.

He lives with his wife in Newtown, Connecticut and for recreation Kevin plays music (guitar and five string banjo) and has a small sailboat on Candlewood Lake, Connecticut.

 

Leadership Passion: the Secret Ingredient of Effective Leaders

Realizing your potential, reaching your potential, and helping others to realize and reach theirs as well…that’s leadership!

Howard C. Fero, PhD
The Leadership Doc

There are many ways to be an effective leader, to inspire our followers, and most importantly to inspire leadership in all those around us. In this inaugural Leadership post in the Albertus Magnus College blog I will talk to you about what I think is one of the most important dimensions of leadership, passion!

The Secret Ingredient is Passion

Passion for a cause makes you a more impactful leader. If we are all to take control of our lives, become successful at what we do, and, as a leader does, inspire people along the way, we need to find that ‘thing’ or that ‘cause’ that inspires passion in us, develop it to its potential, and use it to help others. When we are passionate about a cause it is palpable to those around us and will encourage and excite those around us to feel the same.

PassionIngredient

So, how do we find our passion?

It begins with self-discovery. Think about those things that you most enjoy doing. Do you love to create programs, do you love to teach children, heal others, help people with their finances, play ball? It could be anything, we all find our passion in different areas, the key is to find it, act on it, and add value to what we are doing and who we are doing it with. Think about how you act when you’re doing what you love. Most likely you are excited, happy, in the zone, and focused. When you are doing these things your passion shows and others around you know it. They want to follow you because they want to be excited about something just as you are.

People like Steve Jobs and Herb Kelleher in business, like Joe Maddon, Davey Johnson, and Don Mattingly in baseball, and people like Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dali Lama who have done so much for our society are all very different types of leaders, but they were and are quite similar in that they were driven by their passion to do whatever it takes to promote their cause. I reference these vastly different people to show that when exhibiting our passion we do so in different ways for we are all individuals. Passion does not need to be shown by jumping up and down screaming, it can be exemplified by quiet, but meaningful words. We need to always pay attention to the situation we are in, the people we are trying to impact, and the strengths we have as a leader. When we understand these three dimensions and how they work together we can lead ourselves and those around us to success.

I challenge you all to think about those causes you are passionate about, get involved, and begin (or continue) to enact change!

 

Dr. Howard Fero, is an Associate Professor of Business and Leadership and the Director of Graduate Leadership programs at Albertus Magnus College. When not teaching classes and overseeing the Leadership programs at Albertus Dr. Fero uses his expertise to help individuals and organizations achieve optimal performance and effectiveness as The Leadership Doc. Dr. Fero will be blogging about different leadership topics throughout the year and speaks about these topics in his classes in the Master of Arts in Leadership and Master of Science in Management and Organizational Leadership Programs. He welcomes your comments and looks forward to communicating with you in our exciting new blog.