A Roadblock or an Opportunity for Growth- You Choose
Effective leadership is a cornerstone of a thriving workplace, but what happens when leaders clash due to differing styles, beliefs, and approaches?
Several months ago in a coaching session, an executive relayed the struggles he was experiencing with a fellow executive at his workplace. Based on his account of the situation, he felt the working relationship may be impossible to salvage. Even though their respective roles required collaboration and frequent communication, he was ready to wave the white surrender flag and give this working relationship a big ‘L’ in the win/loss column.
Clashes like this one—those situations that seem insurmountable– create tension and hinder productivity and progress not only for the leaders involved but also for the teams they lead. Differences in leadership styles often stem from diverse experiences, personalities, and perspectives. A clash between leaders with distinct style differences doesn’t have to be a roadblock that holds both leaders back, though. Instead, it can be the perfect opportunity for growth.
6 Strategies to Grow Through Leadership Clashes
In the case of my executive coaching client, he and I discussed the following strategies to improve his working relationship with his co-leader:
- Focus on Effective Communication. Open and honest communication is vital when leaders with varying styles find themselves at odds. Initiate a candid conversation with your co-leader, expressing your concerns and listening to theirs. Create a safe space for both of you to share your viewpoints, allowing for a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives. Emphasize the shared goal of fostering a positive work environment and achieving common organizational objectives.
- Identify Common Ground. Despite differing leadership styles, there’s likely common ground that unites both of you. Identify shared values, goals, and priorities that can serve as a foundation for collaboration. Focusing on common objectives can help build a bridge between divergent leadership approaches, fostering a sense of unity and mutual purpose.
- Initiate Collaborative Problem-Solving. Harness the power of collaborative problem-solving to address specific challenges arising from conflicting leadership styles. Encourage each other to contribute ideas and suggestions for overcoming obstacles. By involving the entire team in the decision-making process, you not only leverage diverse perspectives but also create a sense of ownership and commitment among team members.
- Commit to Flexibility and Adaptability. Leadership is a dynamic journey, and a willingness to adapt is a hallmark of effective leadership. Be open to adjusting your leadership style when necessary and encourage your co-leader to do the same. Flexibility and adaptability can help leaders find a middle ground that accommodates both styles, fostering a more inclusive and supportive work environment.
- Invite a Neutral Third Party for Added Support. In cases where clashes persist, consider involving a neutral third party like a coach to facilitate discussions. An external perspective can provide insights and solutions that may be overlooked by those directly involved. Coaching emphasizes finding common ground and crafting solutions that benefit the entire team.
- Never Give Up on Continuous Improvement and Learning. Leadership development is an ongoing process. Engage in continuous learning and self-improvement. Attend workshops, seminars, or leadership training programs together to gain new insights and tools for effective leadership. Embracing a growth mindset can contribute to a shared commitment to personal and professional development.
Turn Those Clashes into Catalysts for Growth
Clashes in leadership styles are inevitable, but they need not be insurmountable obstacles. By fostering effective communication, identifying common ground, and embracing flexibility, leaders can transform conflicts into opportunities for growth and collaboration. Ultimately, a commitment to continuous improvement and a shared dedication to the team’s success can turn clashes into catalysts for positive change in the workplace.
As for the executive coaching client I mentioned above, he and his co-leader are well on their way to a stronger working relationship. They’ve dedicated time to getting to know each other on a personal level and have added open, honest feedback to their weekly discussions. His white surrender flag has been tossed out in favor of this new, collaborative working relationship with his co-leader.