Strong Leaders Turn Conflict Into Opportunities for Change

As a leader, you should expect a fair amount of uncomfortable conflict as part of your role. Conflict is an inevitable part of the job. At some point in time, members of your team will disagree with you, or with each other. But, conflict actually can be an impetus for necessary change. If handled correctly, conflict can offer opportunities for leaders and team members to know each other better, and for increased respect and harmony throughout the organization.

But how do you address conflict successfully? Here are 5 strategies that will have you managing conflict and your team like a seasoned leader:

COMMUNICATE OPENLY: It does no one any good to let a problem fester. Get the problem out in the open. Address the conflict. Begin the discussion so that you can define the problem.

IDENTIFY DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES: Once the problem is defined, identify the points that you agree on. Finding common ground will help you to work together. Follow that by identifying the differences in your perspectives. That way you delimit what the conflict is actually about.

RESPECT OPPOSING POINTS OF VIEW: After you have identified differences and similarities, state back exactly what you believe the point of view of the other person to be. Then make sure they do the same. Doing so ensures that each side understands where the other is coming from and can often offer opportunities for further clarification.

STAY CALM: Throughout the whole process, be sure to keep cool, stay calm, and keep your emotions out of it. If necessary, take a break so either side can calm down.

INITIATE MUTUAL PROBLEM SOLVING: After you’ve gone through all the preceding steps, identify a list of alternatives that is satisfying to each of you.

Conflict isn’t always easy, but it is an essential part of leadership. What is more important than whether you have conflict is how you handle conflict as a leader.

What other strategies have you found to be effective in dealing with conflict?

About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is the author of The Leadership Killer, Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance, which he co-wrote with Captain John “Coach” Havlik, Navy SEAL (Retired). For the last two decades, Treasurer has worked with thousands of leader across the globe, at such organizations as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, UBS Bank, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more at:

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