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Leadership Gems


Healthy Conflict: A Function of Cohesive Leadership Teams

When leadership teams are anchored in deep trust, they can engage in healthy and productive idealogical conflict that is passionate, unfiltered, and directed toward the most important issues for the team. Teams who experience healthy conflict make the best decisions for their organizations and achieve the highest levels of commitment to those decisions.

When trust isn’t at the foundation, conflict becomes nothing more than an argument that members are trying to win or a game of politics.

Teams that “get stuck” in this space tend to habitually avoid conflict, clinging to a sense of artificial harmony or defaulting to the strongest/loudest voice in the room.

It’s important to keep in mind that if leaders are never pushing one another outside of their emotional comfort zones during conversations, it’s extremely likely they’re not making the best decisions for your organization. It’s more likely they’re trying to preserve the false sense of artificial harmony, which greatly limits team effectiveness.

Healthy conflict is about issues and ideas, not about people.

The goal of the conversation is to come to the very best decision for the entire organization around an issue or idea, even though it can get uncomfortable. The good news is that leaders who are willing to engage in healthy conflict aren’t afraid to commit to decisions that are made, even if they vary in opinion.

They don’t take things personally and they refuse to establish “common enemy intimacy” with others on the leadership team. Such false intimacy occurs when two-or-more leaders bond over their frustration related to another team member. This is nothing more than immature behavior that is destructive to relationships and teamwork.

Engaging in healthy conflict means “entering the danger” with one another – the space where things begin to feel uncomfortable – and stay engaged and pushing for the best decision making. Teams who can do this step to entirely different levels of cohesion and performance.

Being able to engage in healthy conflict on your leadership team isn’t just a nice idea; it’s a strategic and intentional decision. Getting there takes courage and commitment.

While it’s not always easy, it’s profoundly simple. We’d love to help you get there.


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