Brighton Leadership Group

Share on linkedin
Share on facebook
Share on twitter

3 Ways that Leaders Create Conflict

Leaders don’t intentionally create conflict. However, because conflict can impair team dynamics and destructively affect the inter-workings of the team, leaders must recognize how they can unintentionally contribute to its creation.

Here are three ways that leaders unwittingly create conflict:

  1. Everyone is defined as a customer, so no one is clear on who the “real” customer is. This creates conflict because no one is aligned around the ultimate customer that the organization serves. We worked with an organization made up of attorneys and software engineers. They all had different views of who their customer was, and it created conflicting priorities in what mattered most, who got funding and what tasks were accomplished first. Through a simple process we helped them clarify the customer ecosystem and define a new name for the people inside the organization. The first step is to agree on the definition of customer. Then, review everyone you currently call “customer” and figure out who fits that definition. Stop calling everyone a customer!

  2. Lack of clarity in the decision criteria, process or authority. There are multiple dimensions to making good decisions. Leaders who allow conversation about decisions to take place without clarifying (a) what’s being decided and (b) the criteria to decide can create conflict. The natural inclination of human beings is to immediately start discussing solutions and their merits.  Step away from solutions until you’ve agreed on what’s being solved, how the solutions will be evaluated, and who gets to make the final decision. A tip for your next meeting agenda: state the outcome of each topic by specifying whether the topic is for information, for discussion (to gather input), or for the participants to make a decision.  
     
  3. Inability to deal with conflict. An essential leadership practice is to confront tension when it arises. Leadership is often about doing the things that other people don’t like to do. When the leader is uncomfortable with conflict and throws his or her positional power around to end the conflict, it creates greater levels of tension and conflict. Some leaders value the appearance of harmony over constructive conflict. Leaders create silos and internal disruption amongst employees when they avoid tension. Call out tension when you notice it, and view it as an opportunity to increase your leadership maturity as you lead others through constructive conflict.  

As a leader, make the time to get clear on your customer ecosystem, clarify your approach and ownership around decisions, and get comfortable being uncomfortable! Lead by example as you help your team experience constructive conflict resolution.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More Articles

lead with purpose

3 Ways to Lead With Purpose

We are celebrating Freedom week in honor of the Rebel Leader Community launch. You are free to lead with purpose is the theme of today’s …

Read More →
A curious leader

The Case for Curious Leadership

Nothing new comes from the status quo. There is no new awareness, no problem solving, no value creation, no innovation and no adaptability without asking …

Read More →
Leaving the Pack

Defy the Leadership Default

Have you observed the lack of effective leadership in the United States? Rather than uniting us with a positive, powerful purpose, the people in positions …

Read More →

YOUR Leadership Manifesto

The world is hungry for heroes, leaders who are not just great, but also good. Create a leadership manifesto to make it clear how you …

Read More →
Scroll to Top