Leadership involves defining and communicating an organization’s long-term vision and mission while conflict resolution typically deals with the situation at hand. By articulating what you want to accomplish, providing support for talented subordinates, overcoming obstacles, exploiting opportunities, demanding excellence, behaving ethically, you set a good example for your organization. An effective leader builds teams that work well together. As a leader, you facilitate the resolution of conflicts that distract the team members, decrease productivity, destroy motivation and lead frustration and anger. You also recognize that some conflict is natural and necessary to produce innovative solutions to problems, encourage meaningful communication between team members and leads to clarification and cooperation. Using the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, developed in the 1970s by conflict resolution experts Kenneth W.Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann, you can identify the best way to handle conflict in your organization.
- Competitive : Leaders use their position, expertise or persuasive ability to exercise control over their subordinates. In an emergency situation, when a decision needs to made quickly, you typically use the autocratic leadership style to resolve the problem. On an ongoing basis, however, to prevent conflict from festering in the organization, effective team leaders take the time to gather input from subordinates and refrain from behaving as if decisions represent a win or loss for subordinates.
- Collaborative : By using the participative leadership style, you foster an environment of cooperation and collaboration that typically enables employees to function effectively as a team. An effective leader quickly diagnoses issues that hinder team productivity, takes prompt corrective action to resolve disagreements and helps the team members to develop the skills necessary to resolve conflicts on their own, without management intervention.
- Compromising : By compromising, both sides in a conflict give up something in order to gain an agreement. Effective leaders encourage team members to accept concessions when necessary to maintain a level of productivity rather than continuing to debate or argue. They help team members overcome interpersonal conflicts and promote acceptance of other cultures and experiences in the workplace.
- Accommodating : To meet the needs of the team, a team member may surrender his position. When the stakes are low, accommodating the needs of others can promote harmony and foster a productive work environment. However, long-term conflict can arise if more aggressive individuals take advantage of team members who don’t act assertively. Effective leaders monitor their team environment and provide coaching and mentoring to members that enables them to function productively together without operating at the expense of others.
- Avoiding : When a conflict involves a controversial or unpopular decision, resist the temptation to ignore or avoid it. By defining the root cause of the problem, encouraging active listening, negotiating a resolution and reminding participants to forgive each other once the conflict is over, you can foster a productive team. However, effective leaders also recognize that delegating conflict resolution to a third party, such a facilitator or mediator, can be effective in a situation where emotions remain high even after lengthy discussion.