Leadership when things are going well is fantastic, you can ride the wave of success, feel good and celebrate. But when things go wrong or are difficult, that is when our leadership is most tested. This is when your true leadership capacity emerges.
Real authentic leadership is hard work, it isn’t always glamorous. It can be lonely, it can hurt and there is often a cost but when you are an authentic leader you push on. Because it matters. Because you truly care about the vision you are working towards. For me, these are the leaders with the courage to engage in the messiness of conflict, confusion and change and work towards a better future collaboratively.
Interestingly, the leaders most able to disrupt and influence change in their industries constructively are the ones who are able to effectively deal with conflict collaboratively. They don’t avoid hard conversations and they don’t flame the fight. They bring curiosity to the table and they take responsibility, they are willing to talk bravely.
“Fundamentally ‘talking brave’ is about being brave enough to ask the hard questions, navigate the nuances and discover solutions.” Sarah M Blake
Leaders that lean into conflict and talk brave – kick serious ass.
These are the leaders who deal with conflict in a way that is calm, confident, empathic, sharp, brave and strategic. These are the people that are able to hold the ship steady through the storm.
These are the people who can hold the duality of conflict, recognising that it is painful but also very human to disagree. For these leaders’ difference, confusion and conflict present an opportunity to explore and seek understanding. They carry hope and vision, these are the leaders who seek to control the burn not enflame the fire.
These are the leaders who are capable of making the hard decisions, the right decisions, even when they may have to carry the burden or cost of that responsibility. These are the leaders able to work with others – even if they don’t like them. Fundamentally they recognise that power over others is not a sustainable solution.
Conflict leadership understands resolution and change requires that all parties are willing to step into the hard conversations and problem solve together. They are the leaders able to hold this space and prepare for solutions rather than prepare for a fight.
They are rarely positional.
They rarely seek to blame.
They are measured and gather information.
They don’t seek to divide people.
The conflict leader is able to guide process and has ability to check their bias, recognising that the other is likely struggling too. They can be underestimated because they will quietly weave together solutions to the conflict that those caught in the reaction can rarely comprehend. This is because they are playing the long game, they are thinking strategically and they value people not just profits.
Women who exhibit these traits will often be labelled difficult and arrogant and men will often be labelled too soft, too PC. In either case, we too often celebrate the charismatic leader rather than the visionary leader. The charismatic leader makes us feel good but the visionary leader calls us all to take responsibility for our shared future.
So how can we help to better celebrate the authentic, visionary leader? It starts with each of us finding the courage to engage in our own hard conversations. When we do this, we show to others that an alternative is possible. We show that even in the hard moments we are willing to be authentic and live our values – this is what true leadership is. It isn’t about how famous you are, how many likes you have or how much money you can generate.
True leadership is a lived experience in our everyday lives – it is how we help to shape a better future, one conversation at a time.
Conflict Resolution and Negotiation Specialist
Sarah is a conflict strategist with over 25 years of experience working across a broad spectrum of conflict from the bush to the board room. Sarah is media commentator and advisor on corporate and community conflict, international and cross-cultural conflict, HR and workplace conflict, governance leadership and its impact on communication, decision-making and leadership.
If you are interested in learning more about Sarah and her workshops on Essemy, please visit this link.