Productive Conflict Management, Part 3: The Role of the Leader

By B. Kim Barnes

Originally published on LinkedIn, October 11, 2023

Photo by B. Kim BarnesAs a leader, you will often be called upon to intervene in conflict situations. Here are a few things NOT to do under those circumstances:

  • Don’t accept the ownership of the conflict situation if you have not been directly involved. In many conflict situations, the parties are able to and should be encouraged to resolve it themselves.
  • Don’t decide and communicate who is right and who is wrong or impose a solution.
  • Don’t accept an invitation to be a third party if you have any vested interests in the outcome – instead, invite an outsider to take the role of facilitator or mediator.

 Some things you can do to establish a productive environment for the management and resolution of conflict include:

  • Talk openly about your own experiences with a constructive approach to conflict resolution – or its opposite.
  • Provide a safe forum for discussing differences and encourage people to express and explore these differences openly. In meetings, ask for and encourage ideas that are different from current practices and common wisdom without agreeing or disagreeing.
  • If you can reasonably do so, offer to act as a neutral “sounding board” for all parties where you can help them explore and articulate their goals and needs.
  • Reinforce and demonstrate how conflict, handled productively, can improve the quality of ideas and decisions and lead to better solutions.

You, as a leader, can create and sustain an environment where challenging and innovative ideas can flourish and where individuals can learn, grow, and build strong relationships by making conflict a tool for development and innovation rather than a situation to be avoided, hidden, or used in a manipulative and destructive way.

#conflict #conflict management #leadership

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