What’s A Leader To Do About Conflict?

Whether we are leaders of a large or small team, or working individually, one thing is for sure- conflict will happen in one shape or another. In fact, one could argue that without conflict, our achievements and accomplishments would fall flat. The very existence of conflict empowers us to work harder and examine many different angles before completing our final result. How does conflict motivate us and why do we really need it to be stronger leaders?


First we must differentiate between healthy and toxic conflict.

Toxic conflict occurs when leaders or team members carry a hidden agenda within themselves. This internal “ negative chatter” impacts every interaction they have; it colors every decision as well as every communication. The detrimental result of toxic conflict is it impedes progress from occurring-it prevents all action. In addition to inactivity, toxic conflict can destroy trust in relationships as it preys on others’ weaknesses. When leaders see this type of conflict:

  • Recognize it
  • Label it
  • Address it- Get to the bottom of the cause by helping an individual be aware of how they are coming across and disrupting a solution.
  • Reframe it- Think of a different way to view the obstacles, keeping a more open-minded perspective.

Healthy conflict is what every leader hopes for on their team and when they interact with others. It occurs when two or more different points of view are presented and evaluated. The reason it is healthy is that having various ideas and suggestions actually adds to a more substantial result. Viewing a project from many vantage points allows for deeper discussions and analyses. Healthy conflict can help a team move from “group think” to a well thought-out comprehensive plan. When leaders see this type of conflict:

  • Welcome it
  • Don’t avoid it- One of the biggest contributors to team failure, is when leadership doesn’t address conflict. Be a courageous leader and tackle it head on.
  • Encourage more discussion-This is a great opportunity to brainstorm and elicit many different opinions. Facilitate a respectful discussion, where everyone feels empowered to contribute. Do not be afraid to have too many ideas.
  • Model respectful language- If a leader demonstrates clear, open and respectful communication, others will naturally follow. That is an impactful way to keep the dialogue professional and caring.
  • Ask more questions- It’s always good to have the team clarify their contributions. Asking questions also demonstrates that a leader is giving value to what is being presented.
  • Evaluate the ideas together- Include everyone on the decision by either voting for a consensus or attempting to integrate as many of the suggestions as possible.
  • Thank everyone for their participation- If people feel they are being heard and their ideas are being considered, a leader will end up with a far superior result.

Conflict can be very healthy for a team. The way a leader facilitates the conflict is key. How have you dealt with conflict? What are some of your success stories?

10 thoughts on “What’s A Leader To Do About Conflict?

  1. Terri,
    This is a wonderfully simple reminder! I absolutely LOVE the list-steps to use when meeting conflict head-on. Thank you for this.

    Recognize it & Welcome it. Both are the first steps, but I also believe they are the most important steps, for the entire team. I also think that they are the hardest to take, for anyone.

    Thank you for this!

  2. Hi Amber-Lee,
    Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog! I am glad you liked the list of steps. I agree with you that half the challenge with conflict is recognizing whether it is healthy or toxic. Then being able to positively deal with the differences is key. I enjoy reading all your posts as well! Thanks again. Terri

  3. Thanks Dan for your thoughtful comment and taking the time to visit my website! Conflict can bring together different viewpoints to create superb results.If leaders facilitate the conflict properly, a team will truly benefit. Thanks again.

  4. Terri, Thanks for a timely and clear approach to addressing conflict. The importance of embracing healthy conflict is so valuable in reframing our reaction to it. I continue to find that addressing it truly does help create change(s) that are needed. #Appreciated

  5. Great post Terri !

    Very greatly summarized and easy to follow steps. I will put some of your advice into action very quickly !
    In fact I am applying it as we speak with my daughter ! Being a parent is sometimes the most testing relationship. I am asking her questions to clarify… ! 😉

    Thanks for being there ! It is a pleasure to be part of #leadwithgiants with you !


  6. Hi Johann,
    I am so glad you were able to put my advice to good use so soon! It is so true that being a parent involves conflict resolution on a daily basis. I too enjoy connecting with you on #leadwithgiants!
    Thanks again for all your wonderful comments!

  7. I agree with you Marcy that healthy conflict often leads to changes that are needed. The way the conflict is resolved by the leader is always key to whether a team reaps the benefits. Thanks so much for your thoughtful ideas! Terri

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