A week-long series on leadership and conflict resolution

By Rodger Schmidt

Change is hard work. It is uncomfortable and many leaders tend to hang on to what worked in the past even if it is outdated or no longer effective. For businesses to grow, the entire organization must be consistently analyzed, discussed, negotiated, and fine-tuned. Conflict is the backdoor to reinvention and innovation. 

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2:21-22 ESV). 

  • Principle: Healthy debate is essential to change and innovation. Conflict forces leaders to practice communication skills. Communication is a skill that requires selfcontrol, patience, and intelligence. It requires the leader to be authentic. If leaders resist the hard work of conflict, the leader fails to communicate an important perspective. Deal with conflict as it occurs and be open to the positive results that may even surprise the most astute leader. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28 ESV) 
  • Principle: Honest communication is essential to building trust and authenticity. Conflict helps leaders to set limits. Conflict can be the perfect context to set limits and establish agreements that promote respect and integrity for all involved. Leaders must communicate needs and boundaries. This practice allows others to learn about the leaders’ character, practices, and cultural norms of the company. Leaders can also learn much about themselves. Conflict teaches leaders when to retreat, when to compromise and how to set clearly defined limits for themselves and for others. “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:49-50 ESV).
  • Principle: Team members are most free when boundaries are clearly defined. Conflict challenges leaders to practice emotional control. Leaders must approach conflict with extreme care. Leaders must remain calm and use words sparingly getting their point across. Leaders must remain consistent and firm and yet flexible when setting a course of action. Perseverance and self-control are keys to successful conflict resolution. When leaders are selfaware and in control emotionally, members relate more effectively and will learn to depend on and trust deeply the good intentions of the disciplined leader. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” (Proverbs 15:18 ESV) 
  • Principle: Emotional Intelligence and control are essential to building trust and mutual respect. Conflict requires leadership. The leader demonstrates gratefulness. Attitude is everything. A mature leader will exhibit a genuine humble spirit. Open and accepting posturing changes the trajectory of the conversation and ultimately the relationship. It is humbling to witness what happens when works are grace-filled and spirit-empowered. A wise leader will remember the following when dealing with people and shepherding them through conflict. 
    • Offer the benefit of the doubt.
    • Understand that people are generally intelligent.
    • Assume the other person has good intentions. “We ought to thank God for you, brother and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV).
  • Principle: Grace and gratitude defuse defensiveness. Leaders seek to resolve conflict immediatelyMany leaders avoid conflict as much as possible and hope it will disappear on its own. Sometimes it does but most of the time, unfortunately, it does not. Leaders as followers of Christ are to represent the love of God and the power of the gospel by living in peace and unity with one another as stated in Corinthians 5:19-20. This mandate requires leaders to remain active and diligent in shepherding others to resolve conflict as quickly as possible. Jesus himself, says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mathew 5:23,24 NIV).
  • Principle: Conflict resolution promotes peace and unity. Leaders insist on face-to-face interactionWhen resolving a conflict issue, leaders should avoid using text messaging, social media, and other public forums. The mature leader seeks to resolve conflict with the individual or group privately and facetoface. The wise and mature leader will insist on meeting with the individual in person. 
  • Principle: Face to face conversation defuses anger and promotes the exchange of ideas. The Covid-19 pandemic created essential opportunities to meet face-to-face through technology, such as Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Messenger Video, etc.   The principle is Face-to-face conflict management using technology to support the need to make eye contact, observe facial expression, body language, and hear the tone of voice. These elements are required if leaders hope to limit assumptions, presumptions, and imposed perceived motives based on limited information. “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15 NIV). 
  • Principle: Facetoface conversation defuses anger and promotes the exchange of ideas. Leaders limit the conversation to those with whom there is conflict. Leaders must insist that details and discussion regarding conflict be limited to only the people directly involved. It is unwise to participate in outside discussions regarding the conflict such as gossip, alliance gathering, parking lot discussions. These are never producing anything other than more conflict and destruction. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” Philippians 1:9-10 NIV).
  • Principle: Gossip destroys relationships and creates additional conflict. Leaders seek mediation when necessary. Biblical reconciliation is commanded by Christ himself, “By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35). 

The biblical concept of peace occurs approximately 550 times in the Bible. The word peace in Hebrew is shalom and is mentioned 225 times in the Old Testament. Even if the person, group, or team lacks the maturity or social skills to deal with the conflict, it is the leader’s responsibility to facilitate the process and work through the issue(s); even if it requires outside support such as a mediator. “By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:35 NIV)  Principle: Strong mediation will discourage abuse of power and mitigate unjust accusations. 

Thoughts on this series?  

Blogs in this Series:  

Campbell, S. (2016, July 28). The 10 Benefits of Conflict. In Entrepreneur. Retrieved from www.entrepreneru.com/article/279778

Hayashi, J. (2018, August 17). 5 steps to conflict resolution. In Biblical Leadership. Retrieved 

July 3, 2020, from https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/5-steps-to-conflictresolution/