Leaders and conflict

By Will Lukang, PMP, MBA, MASCL

Conflict is inevitable and it is a byproduct of people’s differing perspectives, needs, interests, desires and goals.  Everyone at all levels of the organization deals with conflicts.

The key to dealing with conflict is recognizing that a conflict has occurred and coming up with a way of addressing it.  Conflict if unattended will snowball into a larger problem, affect morale, performance, waste time and money.   The key is timely recognition, because the longer the conflict lasts the harder it is to resolve it.

Leaders who failed to address conflict effectively will be viewed by their people as less of a leader.  It is will affect their ability to be promoted.  Their inability to handle the situation will cause people to undermine their authority.   Effective leaders have a keen sense of awareness of what is going on and are able act on the issue in a timely manner.

What are the causes of conflict?

Personality clashes – people who have different personalities or similar personalities.  Take for example type “A” people.  They always want to dominate and be in control.  Having two type “A” people on your team could possibly create conflict.

Miscommunication – this is the most common cause of conflict.  One person thinks it should be done one way while the other person thinks the other person will take care of the work.   In the end, the work does not get done and both are left wondering what happened—then conflict starts.

Competition – when people are competitive and always try to out do one another.  As such, they fail to work together instead of focusing on the situation and working together to achieve the goal.

Lack of clarity of responsibility – when people don’t have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, they will be frustrated and it will result in conflict.

Leaders are like public figures, they are always in the spotlight.   People who admire them will look to them for guidance.  A key leadership competency is the ability to handle adverse situations.    People rely on their leader to step up and address the issue.   Therefore, it is essential for everyone aspiring to be a leader, or a current leader, to learn to spot when a conflict occurs and address it in a timely manner.  Because they will be judged based on how they handle and resolve the conflict.


One comment

  1. Will -these are great lessons. Providing clarity of responsibility and following up on that is one of the keys of leadership, I think. When an organizational culture is unclear about expectations, responsibility and direction, employees become frustrated, confused even angry. Morale and productivity suffer.

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

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