Leadership Opportunities – Lessons in conflict

Lessons in conflict

In my interaction with the practice of Mindfulness, I have learnt that

human beings tend to stick with that which is pleasant, ignore that which is neutral and turn away from that which is unpleasant.

I have noticed this wisdom in relation to the leadership challenge of conflict. In my year as a Division Director of Division Z, I witnessed an unprecedented expansion of Toastmasters in Zimbabawe. With this growth emerged a great number of individuals who had a passion for the organization and were talented. All these talented individuals aspired to become Area Directors. At that time Area Directors were appointed by the District Director. There were more talented individuals than openings for the positions of Area Director. This was happy breeding ground for CONFLICT, one of the greatest challenges of leadership.

Conflict is unpleasant, and as the teachings gleaned from my experience with Mindfulness, we as human beings habitually turn away from conflict.

There is no doubt that if not handled with skill, conflict may lead to unpleasant words being uttered, even though not being meant. If not handled properly, conflict can lead to relationships being irreparably damaged.

What then you might ask, did I learn from the conflicts that arose during my time as Division Director.?

I learnt that unpleasant though it is, conflict has its benefits and should not be avoided. The three benefits I extracted from the conflict that arose during my stint as a leader in Toastmasters was to examine my own perceptions and understand that others have theirs too. I learnt that conflict should be viewed as an opportunity to examine your ideas as a foil to the ideas of others. In this way, both sides to the conflict grow.

I benefitted from conflict by learning to listen. Conflict taught me that I should listen to others. It taught me the value of negotiation as a preferred way of resolving conflict. Very often when we negotiate, we do so in order to win. We may win, but permanently damage relationships by failing to listen.

Listening is an indispensable tenet of successful negotiation. Successful negotiation is one where both sides to the conflict win. Listening assures the win-win outcome of negotiation.

The third leadership benefit I derived from conflict the need to exercise self-control. In a situation of where there is conflict, emotions usually run high. I learnt the value of remaining calm in an emotionally charged situation. I learnt that where emotions are high, there is need to be economical with words, be flexible yet remain focused on the finishing line.

Daveson Ncube DTM

Executive Club