Leading other people through conflicts, disagreements, tantrums, fights, confrontations, difficulties, and disappointments is the most important leadership labor that many of us will ever do.
But there are a few things working against us:
We are told that anyone can lead, anytime anywhere. This is a unique tick of an American business culture built at the intersection of the myth of rugged individualism and the reality of having to compromise to get along. Many employees believe this idea, but when they are asked, challenged, or offered the opportunity to lead others through uncertainty—without reassurances—many employees fail to even take up the challenge in the first place.
We don’t believe that other people’s conflicts, disagreements, tantrums, fights, confrontations, difficulties, and disappointments, have anything to do with us. Sometimes leading other people through their conflicts requires active listening, engaging in the moment, and caring actively about the other person. This requires leaders to set aside the noise inside of their own head, and to get inside the noise of someone else’s head. Empathy is hard to develop when we are consumed with winning, avoiding, or confronting the chess game of conflicts that we are involved in ourselves.
We don’t see an immediate reward/outcome for engaging, but we do see an immediate reward/outcome for maintain the “status quo.” Conflicts, disagreements, tantrums, fights, confrontations, difficulties, and disappointments sometimes are harbingers that something needs to change in an organization. When they serve as those harbingers, they are a clarion call to disrupt the status quo. But there’s no immediate reward for such behavior in many organizations. As a matter of fact, usually, there is a sanction or unstated penalty. Instead, what gets rewarded with titles, status, and a corner office is going along with the crowd, staying silent, keeping your head down, and avoiding too much responsibility.
The future will be shaped by people who engage courageously in the emotional labor required to lead other people through conflicts, disagreements, tantrums, fights, confrontations, difficulties, and disappointments. The future will be owned by the people (and organizations) who have the courage to go to the other side of the horizon.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org