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Conflict: Friend or Enemy?


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There’s at least one thing that we all have in common – we have to face conflict! It’s inevitable – we are going to find conflict in our personal and professional lives. Conflict crops up between marriage partners, between employees and employers, between political partisans, and between nations.

If you are a leader, you deal with conflict. As a matter of fact, it’s not too much to say that much of leadership is about conflict.

Many of you who are reading this paper are in formal positions of leadership. You undoubtedly face conflict challenges daily in one form or another. Because we coach many leaders across the organizational spectrum, we know that a significant amount of a leader’s time is caught up in conflict.

But that’s not all bad. At least it doesn’t have to be all bad. The healthiest organizations are loaded with conflict.

So are the least healthy.

What matters is the nature of the conflict.

Most people run from conflict. And yet conflict has a habit of showing up continually, even though every possible measure is taken to prevent it.

Here’s what we believe – foundationally – about conflict:

➢    You can’t escape conflict.  The issues on which we can disagree are endless.
➢    Conflict isn’t really the problem. The problem is how people relate to one another when they are in conflict. Conflict is NOT a bad thing; in fact, it’s a good and necessary thing.
➢    Conflict offers a unique and priceless opportunity to grow in self-awareness and maturity as a leader and as a person.

Understood properly, healthy conflict is actually your friend – not your foe! Why? Because it allows for possibility of growth in self-understanding and for an  increased range of options for leaders to deal with challenging dilemmas.