How Successful Leaders Manage Conflict

Conflicts and arguments are natural occurrences within the workplace and if not managed appropriately, they can disrupt operations, productivity and efficiency. They can also demotivate other team members due to the negative atmosphere created.

With continued conflicts allowed to extend, the workplace can quickly become a toxic environment. This underscores why successful leaders must tackle conflict head-on. This is easier said than done, especially if you are dealing with employees you do not know quite well. Leadership is a difficult place to be in and decisions have to be taken with sound judgement and at the right time. One mistake which may plague leaders is that of avoiding conflict resolution to sustain a perceived image of harmony. This brings about long-term issues such as silos and divides which can lead to even worse and harder to resolve conflicts. In this article, we shall be discussing some tips on how successful leaders manage conflict.


Conflicts need to be addressed at the right time. Picking the wrong time to sit down and resolve conflict can make such situations even worse. One of the indicators that a conflict needs to be resolved immediately is when there is evidence that the issues would be causing detriment to the performance of others. 

If everyone else is already aware of existing conflicts which have not been addressed by the respective manager, it is already too late and may impact how one is perceived amongst peers.

Managing boundaries

Conflict resolution can be a sensitive topic for the employees involved. If this is not managed appropriately, the conflict may extend into heated arguments, where boundaries are not respected and personal insults are thrown around. Successful managers put a stop to it when boundaries are not respected. 

Agree to disagree

Leaders understand that there will be different ideas and perceptions that may lead to conflict. In such circumstances, successful leaders must emphasise that team members must agree to disagree and a decision will need to be taken. In such scenarios, leaders must take a decision and this is likely to mean that it will not go down well with one of the parties engaged in conflict.

Confronting tension

One of the reasons why conflict arises is due to tension. Although tension may be less evident to spot, leaders must address it when noticed to avoid a conflict developing. If for example, tension arises when two employees feel overwhelmed with a project that they are both working on, sitting down with them to establish deadlines, procedures and other aspects of project management can be ideal to dilute the pressure. Anticipating the unexpected and action in advance are intrinsic aspects of leadership.

Developing the necessary conflict management skills is necessary for leaders. Considering that it is unavoidable, businesses cannot encounter disruptions when conflicts arise, so successful leaders need to be on the ball when managing them.

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