a leader’s opportunity – conflict! 

By  Debbie Nicol

a leader’s opportunity – conflict!


Some might say finding opportunity in conflict is innovative. Bringing varying points of view together, causing friction to spark even more abrasiveness can be an effective business strategy – not one of the easiest to manage, however smart indeed. Others might say that leadership is a function that creates a future of hope validating relevance of change, providing a way through conflict to a new business reality. A leader may identify conflict in many areas, including the personal or team based arenas, for example:

  • Two VP’s not supporting each other’s work
  • Two Department Heads who depend on each other’s input yet cannot work together
  • A team that does interact yet the communication is dripping with toxicity Without addressing this reality, issues will fester and the chance for positive results will dwindle. Some tips to work through conflict include:

Address any and all conflict

Conflict has a cause and an effect. When the effect moves through the organizational web, it will leave its mark in every place it touches. Recognize it, make it tangible for all to see its effect and work together exploring the conflict to uncover the inner wisdom –  there’s a lot in there, not to be wasted. The process of discovering what’s ‘trying to happen’ within the chaos can be enlightening. A true leader will never avoid the risk of conflict but rather optimize the field of conflict.


Separate the issue from the emotion

Within the conflict, there’s both a camouflaged issue and bucket loads of emotion. A great leader works with the emotion, gives it credibility, space and time and facilitates the release of it through a venting process. Once this has happened, a place of common ground will emerge and deep within the issue appears. It could be lack of trust, loss of freedom, disrespect of management or team members amongst many, many others. It must be revealed. With that golden nugget safely recognized, owned and feeling nurtured, dignity and wisdom will illuminate the way forward.

Move beyond ‘who did what to whom, when’ to ‘what is trying to happen’

The source of conflict is often discussed as people-driven, thereby drawing attention and focus to individual parties. With this type of approach, the realm of name, shame and blame gains momentum and soon turns very ugly. Rather, a true leader works with the system, the parts beyond the people, the web that joins us together. Our backbone provides bodily, mechanical efficiency. Similarly conflict can give the direction and way forward. It deserves closer inspection in the realm of corporate leadership.

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Debbie Nicol

Debbie is tenacious, resilient, can break complexity and ambiguity into concrete simplicity, eats the stage, loves to challenge, Author.
Debbie is a Change Practitioner, Facilitator, Conceptualizer, Design Capability, Asks the right questions, Builds Customized Solutions, Life's Mirror

Debbie Nicol

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