Conflict is similar to weeds in a garden, the seeds of it are everywhere. And leaders in particular cannot escape it. Their position requires having to make hard decisions – ones that will leave a person or group unhappy. Here are three of the most common ways people generally, and leaders especially, manage conflict.
Peace Takers are leaders who like conflict, create conflict, and actually thrive on conflict. Like a cancer cell in the body, Peace Takers overwhelm and damage healthy people and teams, sometimes quietly and other times violently. Due to their social pathology, Peace Takers often view their behavior as “courageous,” claiming others are too weak or cowardly to “do the dirty work” or “make the hard decisions.” While it is true that leaders will sometimes need to make difficult and unpleasant decisions that will not be liked by some, Peace Takers do it with a spirit of arrogance, overconfidence, and deep down, perhaps even a little sadistic pleasure.
There are two kinds of Peace Fakers. There are those who publicly avoid conflict at all costs at the risk of giving up their own goals or even sacrificing the mission of the organization. And then there are others those who pretend they are avoiding conflict, but then use subversive behaviors to get what they want while striving to look nice to those around them. Peace Fakers lack both authenticity and/or courage. And, in the name of perceived peace, they often produce destructive outcomes, albeit unintentionally.
Peace Makers are the leaders who strive to live at peace with others, but not at the expense of sacrificing their own values and convictions or the overall health and effectiveness of the organization. Peace Makers balance care for the organization with care for the individuals. And while no leader does this perfectly, Peace Makers strive to do it with a spirit of humility, mercy and justice. The Peace Maker is not weak or unwilling to make hard decisions or even to have someone not like him or her. Rather, the Peace Maker is known for “how they did it” as much as “what they did.”
Which one of these most commonly reflects you? Be honest! What would others around you say? While none of us manages conflict effectively all the time, we should still strive to be Peace Makers.
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of organizational assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include an M.Ed. in Instructional Systems Design from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership from The Union Institute.