Blog

Jun 17 2014

The Roots of Conflict

What are the real roots of conflict in our families and businesses?  Communication?  Values?  Stress?  Money?

One of the tools we use here at DVFBC is the Interpersonal Leadership Styles (ILS) Assessment.   I’ve always found these assessments difficult; I find myself analyzing each question and what the “right” answer might be.  A recent Harvard Business Review blog critiqued personality assessments (“Most Work Conflicts Aren’t Due to Personality”, Dattner).  Are assessments useful ways of resolving conflict, or do they just create labels that distract us from the real problems?

ILS has been an easy-to-use, practical tool for understanding my own strengths and blind spots in leadership and conflict-management.  My skills in research, organizing and planning are useful in sorting through complex issues.  I listen well and empower leadership in individuals and groups.   However, I don’t like making bold decisions and taking risks.   And, I know I tend to withdraw in the face of conflict and stress.

It can be easy to hide behind “styles” in our leadership.   In the past year, I’ve struggled to find the best way to lead a task force in my community.   The issues we’ve been asked to address are complex and emotional, and the costs of solutions could quickly reach six digits.  I’m trying to lead carefully …and we are doing a lot of analyzing!  But my leadership style frustrates those who are ready for bold action!

Leadership is not just about self-awareness.  It’s not enough to say “that’s the way I am” and, in this case, let the analyzing go on indefinitely.  Leadership calls me to adapt to the needs of the situation, to change my behavior to more effectively move toward a solution.  The ILS Adaptive Leadership materials have helped me and our community task force is making timely progress.

Leadership style labels could even be dangerous if we use them as a reason for not working together.  Labeling has become so polarizing today, making it more difficult to resolve social, economic, and political problems. It takes patience and wisdom to engage in honest conversation with those of other styles or labels!  The solutions to conflicts won’t be found if the analyzers just talk with the other analyzers and withdraw when the directors push too hard for our taste!

With the overlap of family and business, the terrain is ripe for conflict.  Pressures for change and evolving roles will cause problems, but innovative solutions are within reach!   “Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates invention. …conflict is a sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.”―   John Dewey

We invite you to call or email if you would like to explore the ILS assessment or or any of our other processes around leadership development, intergenerational transition planning, or communication and governance.

By Bronwyn Histand, Education Consultant, Delaware Valley Family Business Center

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