Adopt Soft Leadership to Resolve Conflicts Amicably

Adapted from “Soft Leadership: An Innovative Leadership Style to Resolve Conflicts Amicably through Soft Skills and Negotiation Skills to Achieve Global Stability, Peace and Prosperity” by Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.

“Conflict builds character. Crisis defines it.” —Steven V Thulon

Conflicts are common in the current world due to cutthroat competition and the rising expectations of all stakeholders. Although technology is a boon, it is also a bane, bringing more conflicts and stress to people. Conflicts occur due to various reasons such as personality clashes, ego clashes, differences of opinions, cultural differences, perceptions, miscommunication, paucity of information, ambiguity in roles and responsibilities, stress, and scarcity of resources, to name a few.

Conflicts usually arise when there is a gap between expectations and reality. When people are unable to meet their expectations, they develop conflicts within themselves and also with others. At times, they vent their frustration on others, leading to more conflicts. When conflicts occur within the individuals, they are known as intrapersonal conflicts. When conflicts occur with other individuals, they are known as interpersonal conflicts. When conflicts occur between various groups, they are known as group conflicts.

Merits and Demerits of Conflicts

Conflicts are inevitable in life. They have both merits and demerits. The merits include identifying what did not work paving the way for improving the systems and structures. They lead to inventing new tools and techniques. They are also productive when the outcomes are positive. They bring emotional unity among the employees as they come together to resolve issues.

Individually, conflicts help you assess your inner potential. You unlock your hidden potential. You rise to the occasion. You assess yourself where you stand vis-à-vis others. It helps you test your limits and touch your upper limits. You take intrapersonal feedback and evolve your strategies accordingly. You find out what works and suits your personality and profile. You become a better listener. Above all, you become more mature and excel as a better leader.

On the flip side, conflicts also have several demerits. They lead to increased stress and burnout. They divert attention from the core issues and productive activities. If conflicts are not handled properly, they might affect the organization adversely in terms of productivity and performance. They lead to misunderstanding among people and waste of resources. They also can lead to crises if not addressed. Hence, it is essential to analyze the causes of conflicts to address them effectively.

A Blueprint to Resolve Conflicts Amicably

Don’t avoid conflicts. Instead, resolve them amicably and earnestly. If you postpone conflicts, they become crises later, which will be difficult to manage. At the same time, ensure that conflicts don’t become chronic. Here is a blueprint to resolve conflicts amicably:

  • Consult experts in the area of conflict when in doubt because everybody doesn’t know everything.
  • Communicate clearly. Ensure that all stakeholders are respected and treated with dignity and honor.
  • Be a good listener. Avoid preconceived notions. Have an open mind to look at conflicts to resolve them amicably.
  • Maintain positive body language. Observe the body language cues of others to identify their inner motives and intentions.
  • Be cool and composed. Maintain a cheerful note throughout the discussion.
  • Keep the doors of negotiation always open, even if the negotiators do not reach an understanding right away.
  • Focus on your strengths and overcome your weaknesses to do better in the negotiation.
  • Find out the motives behind the conflict.
  • Don’t react. Act.
  • Take breaks to recharge yourself and view the conflict with a new perspective.
  • If the conflict is big, break it into small pieces and address them bit by bit. However, ensure that you don’t lose the sight of the big picture.
  • Be flexible but also restate your points clearly and assertively.
  • Stick to facts, not opinions.
  • Observe the hidden reasons behind the conflicts to address them.
  • Attack the issue, not the individuals.
  • Emphasize similarities, not differences.
  • Empathize with others.
  • Strive for win-win. Give concessions, if possible. Show a graceful exit to your opponent, if proven guilty.
  • Close the issue and avoid boasting about your victory to avoid further complications.

Strive for Win-Win

People often use either competing or compromising mode to resolve their conflicts quickly. They also must explore other conflict-handling modes depending on the issue to achieve effective outcomes to conflicts. Although it consumes a lot time, it is ideal to achieve a win-win outcome in the larger interests of individuals and organizations. As a leader, your task is not to lose your temper to avoid adverse effects but to remain cool and composed by seeing the big picture to resolve conflicts.

Although there are no right or wrong approaches, the following approaches may be adopted depending on the conflict and context:

  • When the other person is wrong, adopt a competing approach.
  • When the other person is right, adopt a compromising approach.
  • When both are right, adopt a collaborative approach.
  • When both are wrong, adopt an avoiding approach.

The Soft Leadership Approach

Leaders adopt various leadership styles and tools to resolve organizational conflicts. They can adopt a soft leadership style to achieve the desired outcomes without adversely affecting the relationship. Soft leadership believes in applying pressure to get things done. It doesn’t believe in using force and violence. It believes in cooperation and collaboration, not competition and compromise. It emphasizes persuasion, negotiation, discussion, and dialogue to resolve conflicts with people orientation without compromising task orientation. Soft leaders search for synergy and collaboration. They avoid aggressive posture toward conflicts. They explore various options to make the outcome win-win through persuasion and negotiation.

This article was adapted from “Soft Leadership: An Innovative Leadership Style to Resolve Conflicts Amicably through Soft Skills and Negotiation Skills to Achieve Global Stability, Peace and Prosperity” by Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.

International leadership guru Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D., is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is a leadership educator, executive coach, speaker, and consultant. He has 36 years of experience, and is the author of 36 books, including the award-winning “21 Success Sutras for CEOs” ( His book, “21 Success Sutras for Leaders (, was ranked as one of the Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year―2013 by San Diego University. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. His vision is to build 1 million students as global leaders by 2030 ( Dr. Rao serves as an advisor and judge for several international organizations, including Global Leadership Awards in Malaysia, Middle East Business Leaders Summits & Awards in Dubai, and Small Business Book Awards in the United States. His published books are available on Amazon at: Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs:,, and E-mail him at and follow him on Twitter at


Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.
Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D., is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with 43 years of experience and the author of 52 books, including the award-winning "See the Light in You" ( He has published more than 300 papers and articles in international publications, including Leader to Leader, Thunderbird International Business Review, Strategic HR Review, Development and Learning in Organizations, Industrial and Commercial Training, On the Horizon, and Entrepreneur magazine. He is a soldier, entrepreneur, editor, educator, author, enlightener, and philosopher. He is a C-suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision, given his multifaceted professional experience that includes military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030 ( He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe). He invests his time in authoring books and blogging on executive education, learning, and leadership. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs, including He is a prolific author and a dynamic, energetic, and inspirational leadership speaker. He can be reached at