Leadership Skills: Why You Need to Appreciate Conflict

conflict between business people

Years ago, I got to spend a day with prolific leadership writer, Professor Warren Bennis, who is also a The Leadership Gift™ master. The occasion was a week-long learning session about group genius.

At one point, conflict arose among the 50+ participants concerning the direction the program was taking.

Here are some leadership lessons I observed from inside the fray:

  1. There’s tremendous power in conducting yourself so that your audience (team, partner, or employees) feels free to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with how you (and they) are investing time and attention — even if you’re the world’s leading expert in what you’re doing!
  2. When disagreement arises within your audience (team, partners, or employees), it pays to treat it as an opportunity to learn (see Team Leadership Can Even Flourish In An Upset). Don’t squelch it, cover it up, or take offense — even when you’re the world’s leading expert in what the group is doing!
  3. Opportunity is liberated when we’re willing to let go of our own agendas and create new ones in real time — even when we’re the expert in what a group is doing!
  4. It’s smart to create “hang time” for the group — like a good punter in football, or like a powerful basketball player leaving the foul line for a flying dunk — by labeling a disagreement as “important” to you and then inviting someone with an as yet unspoken perspective to express it — even if you’re the world’s leading expert in what you’re doing.
  5. Nothing substitutes for listening. Listen for the “truth in the room” by observing both your reactions and the audience’s (team’s, partner’s, or employee’s) to each new speaker and perspective — especially when you’re the expert in what you’re doing.

Remember this: Any upset, fear or conflict, when thoroughly viewed, will disappear.

Whether within ourselves or within our groups, this truth is the key to appreciating conflict.

Please read it again: Any upset, fear or conflict, when thoroughly viewed, will disappear. One thing I teach my clients about The Leadership Gift is that talent lies in confronting the upset and viewing it “as it is.”

Thank you, Dr. Bennis for a masterful demonstration!

Get Started With This 5-Minute Stretch:

This week, thoroughly view at least one fear, upset, or conflict. Examine it until it disappears and is replaced by powerful clarity.

For personal upsets or fears, challenge yourself to go through the experience. It can only be clarified when fully experienced (instead of avoided).

To do this in a relationship, invite parties to the upset to articulate — instead of attempting to argue or resolve — as many different perspectives about the upset as possible.

Invite the group to describe the conflict “as it is.” Listen together for the “truth in the room.” Don’t plan a course of action until you’ve seen, heard, or felt this truth together.

I wish you a world of productive relationships!

Was this post helpful? Dialogue is a powerful tool for clarification! ‘d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Want more integrity in your teams at work? You can claim it at Creating Results Based Teams. Or you might prefer Leading and Coaching People to Take Responsibility and Demonstrate Ownership. And of course, for maximum personal and professional impact, join the Leadership Gift Program.Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.
Posted in Leadership on 08/16/2012 01:38 pm
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