I’ve been reading some great pieces on leadership recently, including an excellent one from CEDR on a little understood aspect of the leader’s role – how he or she handles conflict and negotiation. The way leadership is portrayed, the CEDR blog says, is to showcase either a leader who experiences no prolonged disputes at all – or deals with it immediately when it arises.
The truth, though, is that many leadership challenges in which conflict and sometimes tough negotiation are required are commonplace and, when handled well, can benefit the whole organisation. By not recognizing this reality, a leader’s assessment of his or her role is flawed. And organisations that try to minimise healthy internal debate similarly do themselves a grave disservice.
How many times do we look back and see that the seeds of an organisation’s destruction came when there were no dissenters at all from the corporate view? Sometimes, when everyone agrees, it’s time to worry about whether they are right. And sometimes it’s good to debate – whether that is around the best way to implement a long-term strategy, the impact of younger generations on the workplace or the impact of technology. These are complex problems, with no binary solutions.
The ability of the leader to manage these new complexities, make difficult decisions and manage conflict is essential. Not all conflict is bad – and it is part of the modern leader’s job to know when it is good – and when it is not.