5 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Leaders

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Teenage boy and girl stick out tongues to each other


Differences will either be your greatest advantage or they will be your greatest weakness.

Leaders brave enough to hire people who come from a variety of experiences, motivations, and work styles enjoy multi-faceted solutions to challenges, higher levels of creativity, and a dynamic tension that encourages people to do their best.

Too often, though, those advantages disappear in the heat of the daily grind where it’s just easier when everyone is on the same page from the get go. Sure, the work becomes more mediocre and great talent walks out the door because they aren’t challenged, but life seems so much calmer than when you have to deal with all of those messy difference of opinions.

After all, don’t differences of opinion lead to workplace conflict? And doesn’t conflict lead to loss of productivity?

You bet it does!


The CPP Global Human Capital Report reports that 49% of workplace conflict comes from ‘personality clashes and warring egos.’ And conflict results in employee absences, project failures, and having the life sucked out of the valuable employee hours turned over to conflict resolution, estimated to be one full day a month per employee by the CPP report.

It’s no wonder so many leaders choose to stack their teams with a gaggle of mini-me’s who are automatically on the same wave length.

Hooray for them. They’ve learned the secret of sailing in calm waters.

But that type of safety gets you nowhere fast in today’s competitive marketplace and, dare I say, naturally choppy waters.

To be great today, it takes inclusive teams. And to bring out the best in those teams, it takes leaders who know how to quickly extinguish conflict and redirect energy to positive pursuits.

And that starts with the development of conflict resolution strategies.


1. Bring Conflict Out into the Open– Harboring disagreements, resentments, and jealousies below the surface gives conflict the time and space to fester. While none of us anxiously welcomes discussions that we know will be uncomfortable, at the first sign of conflict, put it on the table. Sometimes that means spotting an argument in progress and immediately employing resolution strategies but often it means being on the lookout for changes in relationships, tense body language, or side eyed glances that indicate a simmering beef between two or more people.

2. Respect and Clarify– Conflict means high emotions. As a leader, you have to respect that both sides need the acknowledgment and respect that how they feel matters. A simple phrase such as ‘I understand that this has upset you’ is enough to show that how they are feeling matters. Once you do that, then you can start to clarify exactly what the argument/conflict is about with questions such as ‘tell me more about that.’

Your goal here is to make sure you understand what the argument is about. Resist the urge to jump in with anything but clarifying questions.

3. Employ the ‘Reality TV Playback’ View- You may love reality TV or hate it, but either way you can borrow from its playbook to improve your conflict resolutions strategies. We watch reality TV because we have a front row seat to raw human emotion and conflict while sitting calmly back at a safe distance. As a leader, you need to be in the thick of the action while maintaining a bird’s eye perspective that let’s you see the full situation from both sides of the equation, looking for gaps that are apparent to you but often not visible to the participants.

To ensure sustained conflict resolution, your ability to stay calm and take in a wide scope of the disagreement without inserting yourself ensures that you will maintain perspective and neutrality.

4. Put Yourself in Their Shoes– The ability to resolve conflict rests heavily on how well you understand yourself and your people. You have to know what your own natural biases and motivations are so that you resist the urge to immediately agree with the argument closest to the one you yourself would employ. You also have to give others the breathing room to discuss their concerns in the manner and language that is most comfortable to them and take their motivations into account. Some people will lean to the emotional, some to the analytical and their reasoning will reflect that preference.

It’s your job to bridge the gap between both parties in a way that brings about understanding to both sides.

5. Be flexible– Resolving conflict often means changing your own opinion and welcoming different ways of doing things. Stay in the moment and be prepared to change your own mind.


Leaders who turn differences into advantage have the competitive edge. Do your best to address conflict quickly and employ the above strategies to improve sustained respect and collaboration.


If you want to understand how your own natural style may be impacting your ability to resolve conflicts quickly, click this link now for more resource






Sandi Coryell
Keynote Speaker and Leadership Consultant Sandi Coryell works with leaders who want to bring out the best in their teams and themselves so that they can improve their creativity, teamwork, and bottom line. For Speaking or Consulting inquiries, please contact Sandi at 818-288-3483 or email at sandicoryell@thecoryellgroup.com

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