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The notion of finding peace through conflict may initially appear paradoxical, yet it holds profound truth. Surprisingly, leaders who shy away from conflict often find themselves devoid of peace.

This principle extends to organizations as well. In the absence of a deliberate focus on addressing conflict, companies tend to revolve endlessly around areas rife with cultural dissonance. Where cultural entropy persists—defined as the discrepancy between energy expended and results achieved—you’ll likely find leaders who either evade conflict altogether or engage in destructive patterns.

The conflict avoiders adopt a strategy of appeasement, striving to maintain harmony and hoping that conflict will not disrupt their equilibrium. Yet inevitably, conflict arises in different guises, catching them off guard. Why do these leaders persist in such behavior? They find solace in the fleeting tranquility they manage to preserve, seeing themselves as heroes.

On the other end of the spectrum are the passive bystanders, indifferent to events and unwilling to exert additional effort, even when opportunities for improvement arise. Seth Godin aptly characterizes this type as the ‘Bureaucrat’—a dispassionate observer who remains unfazed by internal or external turmoil, simply allowing events to unfold with resigned acceptance.

Then there’s the archetype of the villain —a figure who revels in creating and participating in conflict, often driven by political motives and a singular focus on organizational objectives. Such leaders wield their power like a weapon, viewing others as mere instruments to achieve their ends. While some organizations may unwittingly reward this behavior due to short-term performance metrics, the long-term consequences often include talent drain and diminished organizational resilience.

Paradoxically, it is through conflict that meaningful change emerges. Organizations must proactively embrace conflict as a catalyst for growth and innovation, setting clear expectations for leaders at all levels. Patrick Lencioni advocates for a mindset of ‘Productive Ideological Conflict,’ wherein conflicts are rooted in the mission, vision, and values of the organization. Morten T. Hansen refers to this approach as ‘Wise Compassion’—the ability to confront difficult issues in a humane and constructive manner.

Leaders must learn to engage in constructive conflict, akin to a skilled coach who is always attuned to the needs of their team and the overarching goals. By striking a balance between trust and competence, these leaders foster an environment where individuals feel supported and empowered to achieve their full potential.

Harmonizing clear expectations for leaders regarding constructive conflict is paramount for fostering organizational peace and growth. By embracing conflict as a catalyst for positive change and innovation, leaders can steer their teams towards greater resilience and success.

Through programs like KBD Consulting’s Adaptive Leadership: Concepts to Real World Practice, organizations equip their leaders with the tools and mindset needed to navigate conflict effectively, transforming challenges into opportunities for growth and collaboration. By fostering a culture where conflict is approached constructively, organizations unlock their full potential and achieve enduring success in today’s dynamic business landscape.

Contact us today to learn more about our Adaptive Leadership: Concepts to Real World Practice leadership program.

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