Leaders Can’t Avoid Conflict


Conflict is no stranger within the local church.

Different opinions, diverse perspectives, and opposing priorities can cause your best leaders and staff to experience conflict with each other.

This is normal and virtually unavoidable amongst leaders. Leaders cause motion and motion causes friction!

The goal is not to practice avoiding conflict, instead we all need to become good at resolving conflict.

Leaders cause motion and motion causes friction!Click & Tweet!

In order to be good at conflict resolution, the first step is to know the primary internal causes. When we understand what causes conflict, we can begin to recognize and deal with it before it gets the best of us.

7 primary internal causes of conflict:

  1. Immaturity
  2. Self-Centeredness
  3. Insecurity
  4. Pride
  5. Controlling nature
  6. Fear (Fear of loneliness, rejection, abandonment, being manipulated etc.)
  7. Broken trust

An unmet expectation is often the core issue underneath conflict, but the bottom line is that you don’t get what you want.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

James 4:1-2

We all wrestle with some of these internal causes that lead to the more visible expressions of conflict.

7 primary external causes of team conflict:

  1. Unhealthy culture
  2. Unclear or misaligned vision
  3. Lack of communication
  4. Unclear expectations
  5. Territorial attitudes
  6. Unhealthy competition
  7. Ineffective systems and processes

5 Guidelines to Conflict Resolution:

1) Give the benefit of the doubt.

My personal frame of reference is that our staff is made up of really smart people who are committed to the vision and work hard to do the right thing.

So when something seems odd my first reaction is to assume the best.

When I choose to give the benefit of the doubt and seek to understand, it’s amazing how quickly conflict dissipates. When this practice begins to seep into the staff culture, the moral rises noticeably.When something seems odd on our staff teams, our first reaction should be to assume the best.Click & Tweet!

2) Extend trust.

Your teammates need to earn your respect, but it’s important that you give them trust up front. Trust is the oil that lubricates the relational operation of your team. The higher the trust, the stronger the culture.

If and when someone violates that trust, that’s a different story, but until then operate in an environment of mutual trust.Your teammates need to earn your respect, but it’s important that you give them trust up front.Click & Tweet!

3) Get the issue out on the table.

Don’t hold back. Polite harmony never advances the vision or accomplishes meaningful success.

If there is a problem, get it on the table. Be candid, speak truth, but do so with kindness and honor. Have the full and honest conversation. Don’t say things in the hallway that you wouldn’t say face to face.

Seek to understand, listen carefully, find common ground within the vision, and make a commitment to work toward a healthy and productive solution.Polite harmony never advances the vision or accomplishes meaningful success.Click & Tweet!

4) Set your agenda aside.

James 4:2 is a truth we can’t escape. We get upset when we don’t get what we want.

Maybe it’s a bigger budget, or more staff, or greater recognition… and the list goes on. But mature teammates don’t insist on getting their way, or everything they want.

The Devil loves it when we fight like that. However, when we rise above our own agenda, personal ambition, and seek the best for others and the church overall, everyone wins!

5) Forgive and move on.

You may have a good solution, and the team moves forward, but it doesn’t always work out happily-ever-after. Sometimes people are hurt and they need time and grace to heal.

Forgiveness from both parties is a critical part of healing and any healthy staff.

It may take time and God’s peace to help you through the process. But in the end, restoration needs to be realized so that you may continue to model the kind of relationships that honor God.

All leaders need to become good at resolving conflict.Click & Tweet!


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