A Guide To Leadership and Conflict Management

Leadership involves defining and communicating an organization’s long-term vision and mission while conflict resolution typically deals with the situation at hand. By articulating what you want to accomplish, providing support for talented subordinates, overcoming obstacles, exploiting opportunities, demanding excellence, behaving ethically, you set a good example for your organization. An effective leader builds teams that work well together. As a leader, you facilitate the resolution of conflicts that distract the team members, decrease productivity, destroy motivation and lead frustration and anger. You also recognize that some conflict is natural and necessary to produce innovative solutions to problems, encourage meaningful communication between team members and leads to clarification and cooperation. Using the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, developed in the 1970s by conflict resolution experts Kenneth W.Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann, you can identify the best way to handle conflict in your organization.

Conflict management is an ongoing job duty of a leader. Developing skills in managing conflict in the workplace through self-awareness, communication, respect, and appreciation for others skill set are important aspects of the leader’s role in ensuring conflict is managed and organizational goals are prioritized.

Resolving Conflict: How Real Leaders Do It

Why is conflict management important for leaders?

Conflict management is a skill that can help leaders create a successful team that is composed of team members who work together to achieve goals, develop strategies and streamline processes. When you gather a team of individuals together with varying personalities, there is potential for conflict, but knowledge and mastery of conflict management skills can help you avoid conflicts altogether or resolve them quickly when they occur.

Besides simply resolving conflicts, effective conflict management has a few other benefits. Some of the benefits of proper conflict management include:

Improved processes and stronger goals

Resolving a conflict a team member might have with a goal or the methods of achieving it allows for the possibility to find areas for improvement. By using a positive method of conflict management that allows those on your team to speak freely about their issues, you can let members offer opinions on how to resolve issues. Using their feedback to resolve issues can help you understand whether there is any potential for similar conflicts within your team.

This method also allows you to discover ways to improve your current processes or strengthen your assigned goals. This can help you achieve your goals quickly and prevent other conflicts from arising.

Improved teamwork

If there are conflicts between individuals on your team, its helpful to work toward a situation that results in all parties involved finding a positive solution. By resolving conflicts between two or more team members, you can help them find ways of collaborating that improve morale and productivity. You can even implement some of these solutions throughout the rest of the team, strengthening your entire team as they work toward collaborative goals.

Preventing future conflict

By understanding conflict management and consistently finding positive solutions, you can recognize patterns that potentially lead to conflict and use previous solutions to prevent them from reoccurring. This ensures that a project can progress on schedule, improves a teams morale and even increases a teams respect for management.

What is the connection between leadership and conflict management?

Conflict management is a key skill that helps leaders successfully maintain workplace productivity and morale. There are typically two types of conflict that might occur while leading a team:

Since achieving goals usually requires hard work from your team, there is usually an established agreement between team members and the goals assigned to them. As a leader, its helpful to ensure your team not only understands these goals but agrees to work toward achieving them. Its also important to ensure your team members agree on the methods for successfully completing projects.

Success also requires teamwork and clear communication. When leading a team, one of your primary responsibilities is making sure your team works well together. Often, individuals with varying personalities comprise these teams. The ability to recognize potential conflicts between individual team members and resolve them quickly is essential for projects to proceed successfully. Understanding conflict management can help you resolve issues before they occur or resolve existing conflicts in such a way that your team can still work together as a cohesive unit.

How to practice conflict management as a leader

As a leader, its helpful to know what options you have when you practice conflict management. Here are a few steps you can take to help resolve conflicts effectively when they arise:

1. Assess the situation

A leaders responsibility in conflict management is to find a resolution as quickly as possible. This sometimes involves noticing a potential conflict before it occurs. For example, helping a team member better understand a process they might have problems with or talking to team members who seem to clash can help improve a situation.

If you intervene in an existing conflict, assessing the situation beforehand can help you prepare solutions for meetings with conflicting team members.

2. Only intervene when necessary

Not all conflicts require intervention. Sometimes, team members can resolve conflicts themselves, or the conflict is minor enough that work can continue uninterrupted. Consider intervening only in instances where a solution doesnt present itself to conflicting team members themselves or if a conflict persists long enough that intervention becomes necessary.

3. Create guidelines

If you notice behavior that might lead to potential conflicts, try establishing rules that encourage a friendlier work environment. For example, consider encouraging respectful conduct among team members or establishing a system of accountability for errors. Defining the behavior you expect from team members and holding them accountable to those standards can help avoid conflict.

4. Recognize causes of conflict

Outside forces may cause a shift in morale in your workplace. Understanding particular causes of conflict can help you prevent issues from arising. For instance, if theres a change in company processes, some team members might require help adjusting, while others might not. Knowing that this might cause conflict, establishing a training program to help those who require guidance can improve morale and reduce the chances of a conflict occurring.

5. Work together with conflicting team members

If you intervene in a conflict or your team presents a conflict to you and asks for your help, collaborate with team members to find a solution. Consider taking on a mediator role by helping the conflicting team members understand each others issues and discovering a solution that works for both parties.

6. Stay neutral

Its important that either conflicting team member doesnt feel youre working against them. Its helpful to communicate to both parties that youre remaining neutral but working toward a solution. Letting them know you want a solution that works for both parties can help them build trust when trying to resolve their conflict.

Tips for conflict management in leadership

Besides the steps you can take to manage conflict as a leader, there are a few tips you can follow when trying to resolve a conflict. These include:

Remaining calm

When resolving a conflict as a leader, you establish the mood and tone for meetings and conversations you have with your team members. Remaining calm can help ensure that conflicts remain professional.

Focusing on facts

Conflicting team members might focus on the emotions of a situation rather than the facts and causes of their issue. Focusing on facts can help everyone discover solutions that can help their situation.

Maintaining boundaries

Consider establishing workplace boundaries while resolving conflicts. This can help your team members conduct themselves in a manner that avoids conflict. Maintaining these boundaries while working toward a solution can help ensure mutual respect between conflicting team members and help them understand the behaviors that crossed boundaries and led to their conflict. An example of workplace boundaries might include ensuring that discussion of a conflict only occurs between involved parties.

Establishing goals

It helps when all parties involved in a conflict understand what each individual wants in a potential resolution. This may include your goals as their leader, such as a productive or positive work environment. Understanding one anothers goals can help team members find a mutually beneficial solution to problems.


What is the best leadership style for conflict management?

The 5 Conflict Management Styles That Make a Great Leader
  • Collaborating.
  • Obliging.
  • Dominating.
  • Avoiding.
  • Compromising.

What are the 5 C’s of conflict management?

Specifically, I’m talking about a constellation of qualities I call the “5 C’s”—competence, communication, conflict (the ability to handle it, that is), confidence, and conscience.

How can a leader improve conflict management?

How to practice conflict management as a leader
  1. Assess the situation. A leader’s responsibility in conflict management is to find a resolution as quickly as possible. …
  2. Only intervene when necessary. …
  3. Create guidelines. …
  4. Recognize causes of conflict. …
  5. Work together with conflicting team members. …
  6. Stay neutral.

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