Mistakes New Leaders Make: Avoiding Conflict

 Justin Clark, MBA

 This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

Life without conflict might seem easier, but is it? As a leader, I have made the mistake of avoiding conflict in order to keep the peace. In the moment, it is an attractive alternative to confronting an issue that is easier to dismiss than it is to deal with. Conversations that arise out of conflict are usually hard. They require us to be honest to the point of sometimes making us uncomfortable. Knowing this, most of us would prefer to maintain the status quo than to rock the boat.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Conflict results at the convergence of different opinions. If we are constantly turning and running from this intersection, we will fail to reach our potential. Healthy conflict produces results without unnecessarily wasting the time and energy of those who have become engaged in it. Though it may not always be our first inclination, we should embrace conflict as a means to enhance our performance.

How can you do it?

1.  See necessary conflict as a means to an end.  

2.  Don’t assume that all conflict is good. Ask yourself is it necessary? Will it help produce results?

3.  Be fair, but firm when engaged in conflict.

4.  Have thick skin. A willingness to embrace conflict means having a willingness to accept that we can’t always be right.

How has embracing conflict helped you improve as a leader?

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