the shape of leadership

Four Surprising Benefits of Conflict

Working through disagreements can make you a better leader

Kent Ingle on December 17, 2018

Conflict is inevitable. It happens at home, work, school and even church. If two or more people are together long enough, there will surely be conflict on some level. It’s not a question of whether there will be conflict, but when it will come. More important than the conflict itself is your reaction and response.

When conflict arises, there are a few ways you might respond:

  • Defend your position to the death.
  • Discredit the other person by slinging counter-accusations.
  • Dismiss it entirely.

However, none of those options is particularly helpful or productive. Such responses merely delay or deflect the tension of the situation — and usually lead to bigger problems.

Times of conflict are opportunities for leaders to learn, grow and mature in their thinking, actions and decision making. It may be difficult to believe, but it’s true. Here are four surprising benefits of conflict:

1. Conflict opens your eyes to another point of view. It’s really easy to get sucked into the belief that the way you view the world is accurate. Sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s not. Conflict affords you the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of someone else. You may not change your mind, but you will always learn something.

Conflict affords you the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of someone else.

2. Conflict challenges you to evaluate your position. Reflecting on your views to determine whether you should continue to think, believe or act a certain way can help you grow as a leader. It’s OK to choose to shift or adapt at times. In fact, that’s healthy.

3. Conflict lets you choose your response. Never give up the personal power to choose how you will respond. You get to make that choice. That also means you can own your position. This is key to leading with confidence and conviction.

4. Conflict requires you to find a path forward. Identify the challenge within every conflict, and then prayerfully strategize your next move. Whether you choose to stand your ground no matter the cost, find a compromise, or completely change your perspective or position, always look for a way to turn conflict into collaboration through open and honest conversation.

Conflict is part of life and a key part of the human experience. Very seldom is it unresolvable. While such situations will come from time to time, they should be few and far between. If that’s not the case, perhaps you need to spend some time reflecting on your thinking to determine why you are so resistant to an opportunity to grow, learn and see the world in a new way.

Contrary to what you might think, conflict doesn’t disqualify you from leadership. In fact, it is evidence that you are a leader. Conflict only comes when you choose to take a stand. Even if you end up changing your position, the fact that you took a stand is a great thing.

However, don’t ever let taking your stand get in the way of taking the right stand. Seek God for wisdom, and ask Him to help you demonstrate His grace as you work through conflict.

Seeing the world through the eyes of someone else will always help you appreciate their worldview and perhaps even inform your own.


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