How Conflict Makes Us Better
July 24, 2015
Author of The UPwards Leader
Topicsconflict, Leadership, Management
Conflict. The very word sends negative and fearful thoughts through even the most hardy leaders.
None of us like conflict. If we had our way, each one of us would steer away from it and navigate towards the less painful, smoother waters.
However, where would any one of us be if we avoided conflict altogether?
We must admit that while uncomfortable, and even painful, conflict helps us become better leaders. Like an intense workout, the benefits that are received through times of resistance and pressure give us wonderful opportunities to grow and become stronger.
With the opportunities to grow in mind, I offer some benefits for us to keep in mind on how conflict makes us better overall:
- Makes Us Understand Others - Conflict is usually the stark differing of viewpoints, values, or vision. When we get outside of our views to see the other side, or as Stephen R. Covey stated "seek first to understand," we will find out what the other party holds close to and begin to work towards a more common ground.
- Builds Relationships That Were Previously Non-Existent - In finding common ground, we may discover a shared value, thus starting down the road to a more solid team, better working relationship, or a business partnership that otherwise would have been left undiscovered.
- Pushes Us To Overcome Fear - Fear in conflict stems from stress of the conflict itself, the element of the unknown, or the potential loss of control or loss of something we hold dear. When we work through these times and stay mindful in overcoming those fears, we find freedom to more actively pursue resolutions rather than being on the defensive.
- Teaches Us How To Be Better Communicators & Listeners - How many times have we put our walls up when a conflict is about to ensue? These walls prevent us from listening or understanding, both of which are very detrimental to our pursuit of growing our leadership influence. If we are cognizant about learning how to improve our communication, we will see the opportunities the situation presents to us.
- Challenges Us To Build A Connected Team - Build a connected team beyond our varying viewpoints and differences. The proverb of iron sharpens iron is true in these instances as well. Teams with cookie-cutter individuals are redundant and one-dimensional. Having a healthy disparity of views, skills, and approaches will stretch us to find ways to keep the team engaged and build around the core with everyone's unique input.
- Makes Us Grow Outside Our Comfort Zone - Growing makes us get out of our comfort zones. Let's be realistic, avoiding conflict is simply staying within our comfort zone. Just like a baby chick needs to break out of its shell to grow, we need to smash our comfort zones as well.
- Tests Us To Be Truly Authentic - Be true to your core. You will never know what you truly believe in until your values are tested. An authentic leader is one who is not just true to themselves, but true to who they claim to be. Conflict will show us what we hold dear, and if we still hold to our values through them, we can actually give a greater influence and inspiration to others who are watching how we respond to the trials.
If we approach conflict not with trepidation but with a sense of anticipation ("How/what could I/we learn from this?"), we can look expectantly to a more positive outcome in spite of the pressures we endure along the way.
Great article which I’m sharing Paul. The keys for someone to make conflict result in something positive is empathy and listening. Without those two attributes, it’s going to be hard to generate something positive for either party.
Hi, Paul – another strong set of observations that contain much leadership wisdom for us – thanks!
You have created one powerful list of benefits and I believe that this might become the new standard for expressing the value of conflict.
The second benefit you list, that of creating new relationships, was not something that had occured to me before now. I knew intuitively that finding common ground in the midst of conflict was a positive strategy for growth, but you have identified a real “silver lining”. I would imagine that finding common ground with another in a potentially negative situation might even make for a stronger bond than those forged when everyone is in agreement.
Something comes to mind about the strength of things tempered by fire …
Excellent stuff, which I enjoyed reading and take pleasure in sharing with others.