Embracing conflict in leadership

Liane Davey, keynote speaker, author of The Good Fight and facilitator, asks the question: “Is your team worth fighting for?” 

She continues: “In the modern workplace, conflict has become a “dirty word.” Conflict is antithetical to teamwork, employee engagement, and a positive company culture. Or is it?

“The truth is that our teams and organizations require conflict to get things done. But, as humans, we avoid conflict and build up conflict debt by deferring and dodging the tough decisions. Our organizations are paying the price – becoming less productive, less innovative, and less competitive. Individuals are paying too – suffering from overwhelming workloads, endless drama, and sleepless nights.”

Liane views conflict debts as a series of small moments of truth where we avoid contentious conversations. Those conflict debts that we hold with other people compound and will cause us bigger problems down the line. So how do we avoid that conflict debt? As leaders, we have the responsibility to “lead our teams with productive conflict,” as Liane describes it.

PotentialSquared has developed and honed the idea of being Refreshingly Direct. The first part, refreshing, is where we ask leaders to say the unsaid, discuss the issues or feedback that others have failed to articulate and tackle the questions that have dogged the person. The impact is a relationship and connection based on bringing productive conflict to a coaching relationship that is based on transparency. The other half of refreshingly direct – direct – is the one that often gets more attention. Leaders like the fact that by being direct it gives them permission to get something off their chest.

As a leader we also need to deliver purposeful and impactful conversations to develop confidence, conviction, and connection, and all three need to be balanced and lived as an entire system to be truly effective:

Confidence – when done well, this is the leader’s ability to act physically and vocally in a way that instils trust and a willingness to follow in their team and their key relationships. 

Conviction – is how the leader uses their underlying ‘true self.’ How do they bring their values to conversations and what are they enthusiastic about? 

Connection – is how the leader enables a ‘wisdom-based connection’ with others. 

What are you willing to do as a leader to change the way you operate to encourage productive conflict that can help shape a better world for all of us?