In our last article post, Two Sides (at Least to Every Story): Managing and Resolving Conflict), we discussed conflict resolution in projects. We went through the reasons why resolving conflict is important. We should not just respond or intervene in conflict. We should not be helicopter project managers, where we hover over the team to eliminate any conflict. Conflict can be useful.
Table of Contents
Conflict resolution review
Leadership and Management
Conflict often is initiated by a gap between where we are and where we desire to be, and that applies to our team members. Conflict should not just be artificially suppressed, but we should take time and consider the situation plus the impact on the team and results. There are 5 approaches to conflict resolution
The approach we take to resolve the conflict depends upon the situation and the organization. However, there is also a link between these conflict resolution approaches and the leadership approaches. We will demonstrate how these are linked, but first, let’s review the leadership styles.
Leadership is not management. There is a difference between leadership and management. There is an interesting saying that applies well and stresses the importance of both.
You manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership. ~ Admiral Grace Hopper
From a business perspective, management is the discipline required to operate a business. There are five functions, planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling. According to Deming, management establishes policy, core values, and long-term strategic course and leadership creates and environment wherein people and systems are constantly improving.
Leadership is something very different than management and an entirely different set of skills. Leadership is about influence, not coercion – generally speaking. Working with the team, the leader articulates a vision of the objective, or the ultimately desired state. Leadership is about people, and as such, requires good communications skills, and greater skills working with people. This includes things like coaching and demonstrating an interest in the individual team member’s work desires and career aspirations. Effective leadership requires consistency, the leader must walk the talk, in the common vernacular, that is do what they say, and model the behaviors expected from the team. This requires the leader to have a great deal of self-discipline. If you are interested in reading books on this topic, let us know and we will put together a list of our favorite books.
The aim of leadership should be to improve the performance of man and machine, to improve quality, to increase output, and simultaneously to bring pride of workmanship to people. Put in a negative way, the aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men, but to remove the causes of failure: to help people to do a better job with less effort. ~ W. Edwards Deming
The style of leadership we take is situational dependent. We provide some examples of seven leadership styles below. Though many of us may default to one of the approaches below, the truth is, the approach should be situational depending. The default, or our favorite style, may be most comfortable, but there will undoubtedly be times when some less comfortable approach is required for this situation at hand.
- Autocratic leadership – makes decisions unilaterally a dictator, this style is command and control centric.
- Charismatic leadership – characterized by skilled communication and emotional connection, they articulate a compelling or captivating vision, aspirational approach creates strong feelings in the followers.
- Transformational leadership – a style that brings the team members together to identify changes required to achieve some inspired objective of the organization.
- Laissez-faire leadership – a hands off approach to leadership, delegative approach to leadership. Team members make decisions and research suggests this leadership style to be of low productivity.
- Transactional leadership – the leader promotes compliance by the team members through rewards and punishments. This approach can motivate team members for short term.
- Supportive leadership – the leader delegates to other team members and follows up supporting the team member through the steps to meet the objective or conclude the task.
- Democratic leadership – a participative style, where the team members are expected to participate in the range of topics including decision making.
So, let us explore how conflict resolution can be or more appropriately, should be wedded to leadership style. Consider a time when there is an emerging and potentially traumatic event for the organization, and this team is required to create and implement as solution. The team has several ideas on how to achieve the result, which creates conflict. Which approach should be taken? We cannot afford to ponder this at length, we need to react and monitor the effects of our actions on the emergent event. In this case, perhaps an autocratic or transactional leadership approach, coupled with an accommodation or avoiding conflict approach would be prudent. The situation influences (sometimes dictates) the approach that is likely to succeed.
Let us look at another combination, in this case, it is an ongoing organization improvement project or a continuous effort. Again, our team has competing ideas on how to proceed, but in this case, the time pressures or need to act quickly and accurately are not so demanding. In this instance, a democratic, transformational, or supportive leadership style in conjunction with collaborating, competing, or compromise could be the best conflict approach.
As you can see there is a matrix of combinations. Selection of an approach and a leadership style is based on the conflict, team, organization, and project situation. In the next installment, we will look at a few of the combinations with examples and experiences. The approach chosen could, while improving one conflict, may create a new conflict.
Come back for our next column where we will demonstrate matrix use for leadership and conflict resolution.