‘CONFLICT IN LEADERSHIP’ By Mercy Karumba

Conflict management is one of the most difficult things to deal with. What is even worse is when we are dealing with conflict across different gender, age-groups,...


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Conflict management is one of the most difficult things to deal with. What is even worse is when we are dealing with conflict across different gender, age-groups, backgrounds etc. The more diversified the people are, the more difficult it becomes to deal with conflict. From experience, I have learned that communication is one of the key issues that come into play when dealing with conflict.

The way a woman responds to conflict vs a man in the same situation is often not the same. Women are emotional beings and we tend to attach feelings to the situation compared to men who attach logic. Therefore, as a woman, it will be more of, “You are hurting me, you are making me feel……” As for a man, it’s more about ” You are doing……..”

With these differences, in the case of conflict, the way a man seeks to solve and the approach of a woman is so different that it may aggravate the conflict even further rather than resolving it. Sadly, the same is replicated in relationships; more so in parenting where the mum and dad play the role of leadership in the family. Is that why it is easier to have boardroom members of the same gender?  I don’t know.

People from different backgrounds and even countries communicate and relate differently. I remember from my experience in an inter-cultural leadership experience, most of the conflicts we had were because of cultural differences and communication issues. This is where someone from Europe communicates directly and corrects bluntly, whereas an African will be more indirect. In this case, depending on the issue, there is an interpretation of rudeness or insensitivity leading to conflict. There are unwritten rules like things that should not be spoken about such as religion, age, weight in some cultures, while in others, these topics are not off the table.

In all these things, leadership requires understanding and respect for diversity. We may be the same gender, however different cultural/upbringing means different views of life. We may be from the same ethnic background, but different gender, hence conflict can arise. It’s natural to view oneself as perfect and the ideal person, but no one is. We may be from the same culture and gender, but different personalities handle situations differently. It’s natural to solve things your own way, but how about considering the views of the other person? It’s natural to see your way as right and the other wrong, but a good leader seeks the 3rd Alternative.

We are all guilty of this in different dimensions, but we can make conflict easier to handle if or when, we embrace our differences. To get a male perspective on this, please read Mitchell’s post HERE

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