5 Tips to Use Conflict to Develop Your Leadership and Team

Involve teammates in setting guidelines to address all conflicts and reassure them that disputes will be resolved swiftly and objectively when they arise.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about conflicts? We often associate conflict with negativity, the inability to get along, and employee arguments. Disagreements can lead to all the adverse outcomes we associate with, if not appropriately handled. Conflict can upset a team, demoralize employees, or even lead to others being terminated.

Typically, conflict arises when we believe our way of thinking or doing something is incompatible with others. Thus, conflict is a disagreement arising from our differences in perspectives, beliefs, standards, and even personal experiences.

But, as I’ll show below, not every conflict within a team is terrible.

The Positive Influence of Conflict on a Team

Here are five tips on using conflict to develop your leadership and team:

  1. Conflict strengthens emotional intelligence.

Leaders can use conflict to strengthen their emotional intelligence (EI) alongside that of the whole team. Research shows leaders who encounter conflict are more likely to possess well-developed emotional intelligence.

As a result, such leaders know their hot buttons well and how best to handle them across various conflict situations. We can use conflict to develop our emotional intelligence away from the classroom.

The ability of a team to navigate workplace conflicts shapes how you handle similarly contentious situations. This ability, coupled with well-developed emotional intelligence, facilitates the objective understanding, assessment, and resolution of all disputes.

With well-developed emotional intelligence, the individual and team are best prepared to avoid or respond to workplace situations likely to result in conflict. These include knowing and avoiding the familiar hot buttons within the group or establishing ways to turn potential conflicts into positive opportunities for oneself and the team.

As a leader, your team will watch how you respond to and handle individual and team conflicts. Beyond learning how to do it themselves, your successes will strengthen the team’s resolve to do well and can spur the collective onto incredible achievements.

  1. Conflict can trigger a mindset change.

Adaptable team leaders can use conflicts to initiate a mindset change for themselves and their teams. When done correctly, this introduces a positive default response to conflict, deviating from our preconditioned likelihood to think of negatives at the mention of disputes.

From now on, your teammates will not rush to worry about potential downsides to every conflict. Instead, this intrinsic expectation of things going wrong is replaced gradually by a positive expectation that the team can pull through the disagreements. And that everyone will come out better.

This mindset change also means team members won’t question each other’s ability to deal with the situation nor will they doubt their capacity to deal with similar problems in the future. As a result, your team will not flee from conflicts, eliminating the threat of such disagreements destroying the group.

Changing the individual and team mindset to approach rather than flee from conflicts improves the group dynamic. It also prevents frequent conflicts and deflates the likelihood of them becoming negative that derails the team.

  1. Conflict develops more vital trust within the team.

Conflicts create divisions within a team. But your team also can emerge a much stronger unit from the row if you correctly handle intra-team conflicts. Nobody wants to encounter or contend with the competition. Thus, most people don’t know how to deal with disagreements, making in-the-team conflicts particularly tough.

Conflicts arising from differing views within the team may be the hardest to resolve, but they also present opportunities to win trust. For a group, resolving these uncomfortable and often distrustful situations correctly means creating a platform of trust and confidence necessary to meet shared objectives.

In this environment, teammates can share information and collaborate easily. People are also more likely to embrace responsibility knowing any shortcomings are addressed rather than reprimanded.

Trust in a team is fostered through open and respectful communication. Trust also prevents the formation of “small cliques” that may be antagonistic to the collective and harm the achievement of team goals.

So while trust and respect are integral in managing conflicts in the team, successfully resolving such disagreements creates trust—a self-sustaining cycle.

  1. Conflicts can sharpen your leadership skills.

The significance of leadership increases tenfold during situations of conflicts within the team. It allows the leader to zone in on individual expectations to realize a common ground both parties can accept.

Beyond the operational responsibilities, managing interpersonal and inter-department conflicts is an essential respite for a leader. Conflicts within a team make the leader more critical and determine how well one can guide the collective by offering direction.

Your leadership skills are most useful in moments of crisis within the team. Your team will look to you more, seeking direction on how best to handle the conflict without breaking the team. Or, where the disagreement is impossible to resolve immediately, how to work with them without derailing optimal team operations.

How do you manage a given conflict? What advice do you have for your team? Which conflict resolution method should you rely on to guide your team through this situation? The truth is that whatever approach you take will reflect on your leadership abilities.

Your handling of the conflict will either win you undying respect or leave a few doubters within the team. Therefore, conflicts help shape one’s leadership skills while highlighting the significance of leadership in a work unit—and why the best leaders take charge of their team and its objectives.

  1. Conflict prepares you for conflict.

There are various types of conflicts within any given team. And whether you want to or not, every leader must contend with disputes among team members every other time. With any good luck, however, a new leader ideally would encounter more minor conflicts before the big ones come around.

Leaders continually learn from the conflicts they resolve successfully, preparing them for more significant and complicated battles. You can position yourself better in times of complex disputes by making things clear within the team.

Determining who oversees which task, setting project timelines, and agreeing on how to complete routine tasks eliminates small and often pointless conflicts. These conflicts still need to be resolved fast and successfully, as you do not want them to grow into something more destructive.

You will encounter a colossal conflict outside the door in less ideal cases. Managing such challenging disputes will require a multi-member team to reach a lasting resolution.

It’s a Team Effort

Proper conflict management is a team effort. Involve your teammates in setting guidelines to address all conflicts and reassure them that disputes will be resolved swiftly and objectively when they arise.

While conflicts are inevitable, thanks to the innate differences among teammates, they should not impact team performance negatively. But this will only happen when you plan for conflicts and find a way to resolve them fast. Having ready processes, structures, and mechanisms to manage all intra-team conflicts will limit the disruption.

However, these anti-conflict measures should not be rigid, with a conflict resolution framework more impactful than a step-by-step guidebook. This allows the team to handle every conflict differently but realize a fruitful outcome every time. The framework also enables future planning regarding potential disagreements, which speeds up the resolution time. Next time you encounter a conflict, use it to develop your leadership and team.