Leaders have conflict. No matter how good a leader is, conflict is an issue the leaders must learn to deal with and navigate. Becaus conflict is an important issue for leaders I am going to dedicate the next two weeks of blog posts to that topic.
My experience with conflict is that I often want to resolve it once I know it has occurred, but I hesitate to do actions or say things that I know will cause conflict. I have had conflict in life, but often the conflict I experience is with a boss at work which means that I have to submit. I can push back (if the area and time are appropriate) and share what my thoughts are, but the ultimate decision-making authority is not mine. This has been tough because it affects how assertive I am on a regular basis which then affects my character and personality while at work. One book says that “conflicts at work present important challenges that affect your career development.” This definitely has been the case with me as an employee at the United Way of Stanislaus County where I have learned to create conflict when necessary while also having to back down from conflict in order to show respect and support for my boss.
Growing up, I saw my mom in conflict with my dad on many occasions. However, observing the positive conflicts they worked through later in their marriage has helped me to realize that it is ok to work through conflict once it has already been created. I definitely feel my family life has oriented me into types of conflict now that I know “our family of origin socializes us into constructive or destructive ways of handling conflict….”
As an introverted young man, I avoided conflict. I would hold my tongue, not speak my mind, and not take a physical action if it meant it might create conflict. And if I did anything that caused conflict, I would often apologize too quickly and too often. On the flip side, when I was in second and third grades, I often got into physical fights with other boys when we had a conflict. I do not remember much of this, but that might be another way I dealt with conflict as a young boy.
I believe that conflict is going to happen in anything you do. When you have people working together as a team towards a common goal, conflict is going to come up, especially as you mix in different age groups, sexes, philosophies, theologies, and leadership styles. When conflict does come up, I believe that violence should never be allowed or excused. Sometimes I think we try to excuse violence with the passion God has given us as if it stems from a supposedly good quality that we have. However, violence—whether it be is physical, verbal, or psychological—should not happen. If conflict does happen, we need to work on developing healthy habits to allow positive conflict resolution to happen.
In a Christian Ministry and Leadership class, my faith might (and should) play a role in the beliefs I have shared about conflict. My beliefs about conflict have slightly been shaped by faith within the church context by the positive and negative examples I have observed in churches. I have seen positive examples where church leaders and members knew they had a difference on an issue, and they consciously took time to talk about it, gather a mediator to assist, and even attend counseling together as a way to deal with church issues. Those have been some great examples of how the church positively works through conflict in a biblical and practical way.
However, I have also seen examples where church leaders develop conflict and stop talking with each other, publicly oppose each other, and even fire the other person. Being a somewhat new Christian I need to take some time to think about my faith and knowledge of the Bible in order to develop my beliefs from a biblical perspective. I know there are several ways conflict is handled both positively and negatively in the Bible, and maybe that is something I can and should dedicate more time to studying and thinking about. However, I do agree with our class discussion on Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18 about how to deal with conflict.
Question: How do you deal with and navigate conflict as a leader?
 William Wilmot and Joyce Hocker, Interpersonal Conflict, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 4.
 Ibid, 2.