Managing Conflict

Are you someone who struggles managing conflict? Many leaders are uncomfortable when it comes to confrontation. Conflict resolution is one of the most difficult tasks leaders face.

I am not one who enjoys managing conflict. In fact, if I could go the next five years without experiencing any further conflict in my professional life, that would be a true blessing. But we both know that is not going to happen.

As leaders, we not only must recognize managing conflict comes with the territory, it’s an integral part of our job. By not dealing with conflict, situations often get worse. Conflict avoidance will not only lose the respect of your employees, but can be damaging to your career. Sometimes when avoiding conflict, the burden of resolution will fall on another manager’s shoulder. I’ve been that manager on more than one occasion, but I will save that story for another time. For now, let's just say that as much as I dislike conflict, I’ve been identified as someone who has been successful in managing conflict. And as I’ve written in other posts, leadership is about sharing what we’ve learned.

There are three responses to conflict. We can refer to these responses as the three Fs: Fight, Flight or Face. Just like one can have a good presence, bad presence or no presence on social media, two of those three responses toward conflict are usually not good options. Unfortunately for many leaders, flight or fight is what is often practiced. Leaders get angry and start bullying their way through, or they simply avoid confrontation altogether in hopes everything will work out on its own.

But the leaders who face conflict are usually the ones leading a team firing on all cylinders. These leaders face conflict in a special way. Their tool of choice: Curiosity. The emotion of curiosity is a curious emotion. For example, did you know curiosity actually helps grow T Cells? Being curious allows the brain to grow new synapses, which in turn makes our immune system stronger. When we are curious, we are more engaged. There is no judgment. There is no negative self-talk. When we are curious, we are able to detach from a situation and see arguments from a new perspective. We begin to see things not seen before. We begin to ask lots of questions – both of ourselves and from others. Curiosity allows us to be open to learning, unlearning, and relearning. Conflict is a state of mind. Becoming curious rather than defensive, angry or anxious allows us to step outside this state and see from a new perspective.

Could curiosity be the vitamin of leadership? (Image courtesy of

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