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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

18 May '13

When leaders create conflict

Posted by T.J. Addington
Leaders of organizations, churches and teams often have a role in creating conflict that is unhealthy. Much conflict could be avoided if leaders could avoid these mistakes.

Ambiguity
Leaders who are unclear as to who the organization is and where it is going and how it will fulfill its mission create conflict through their lack of clarity. When mission, guiding principles, ministry focus and culture are not clear, there is ample room for misunderstanding, unmet expectations and therefore, conflict over direction or philosophy. Healthy leaders are very clear on the critical elements and do not leave the door open for ambiguity which will naturally lead to conflict.

Disempowering actions
Leaders who seem to promise empowerment but in reality disempower their staff through micromanagement, lack of clarity or not delegating appropriate authority and responsibility create conflict by their actions. Empowerment is only possible where there is great clarity over mission, values, focus and culture. But it also requires the delegation of authority. Where clarity, delegation and authority are not matched, there is a recipe for conflict.

Dividing the team or teams
When leaders vilify or put down one member of the team over against another they automatically set the stage for conflict on the team. When a leader plays one group against another (for instance staff against the board or their team against a senior team) conflict is set up by the leader. (See the two posts on Leadership Default). Leaders who do this, and many do, set their organization up for conflict.

More concerned with their image than missional effectiveness
Leader who care more about being popular than missional will often create conflict because they are not able to be defining with their team (those they lead) because they are more interested in being liked by their team and therefore play to the team's desires rather than to the mission of the organization. Or, leaders may think it is about them, more than it is about the mission and take credit for success that ought to go to the team. Wise leaders understand that it is not about them but about the mission of the organization.

Telling the team what to do rather than engaging their team in the process
Some leaders, under the guise of 'leadership,' prefer to make pronouncements to their team about what they need to do rather than engage the team in meaningful process and dialogue to get to a mutually agreed upon strategy. While team member may 'agree' verbally, they do not necessarily agree 'with the heart' and feel bullied into a position that is not one they buy into. Again, this is a tactic that may work for a while but in the long run produces unhealthy relationships and lack of trust.

Good leaders can prevent most conflict by being clear on the big rocks of the organization, appropriately empowering their leaders or team, never creating division within the team or between teams, making the mission the focus, not themselves, and engaging their team in dialogue and process toward a mutually satisfying solution.