Leading through conflict
PS DYLAN WEARNE, GLORY CITY CHURCH
The most beautiful thing about the church, the people, is often one of its biggest challenges. The complexity of the environment, where people gather together, from different backgrounds, with different perspectives, varying upbringings and various worldviews means that our ability as leaders, to lead and inspire others is critical.
I have loved being involved in the Glory City Academy. I love seeing people’s lives transformed as they seek the face of the Father. One of the surprising (or unsurprising) things I observed was the relational tension that arose when students spent time together. What was more surprising was the lack of personal conflict management skills. People seemed willing to endure awkward and uncomfortable feelings, rather than addressing them for the sake of peace and unity. When we reconfigured the course curriculum, and added intentional elements on leadership development I wanted to do a class on conflict resolution with the intention of developing these skills in the lives of our students.
In preparation for the class I listened to the book ‘Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High’ by Joseph Grenny, which changed my perspective on conflict resolution and management. The book’s vision is to empower individuals to navigate their internal fight-or-flight responses when faced with difficult conversations, with the ultimate goal of addressing conflict constructively. Crucial Conversations emphasises identifying at its core the nature of the conflict. Is the conflict primarily based on the content, a recurring pattern of behaviour, or deeply rooted in the relationship? Recognising where the conflict really lies is crucial for effective conflict resolution. Addressing a conflict at a content level when it needs to be addressed at a relational level won’t help us achieve the desired outcome.
When I started identifying the core of issues of my personal points of conflict (I’m still getting better at this each day), it made addressing the conflict or tension easier, and resolutions were more achievable and effective.
I recall a specific instance of tension with my brother. We are “i’ve got your back kind of brothers”. Best friend, I was his best man when he got married, and he was the best man at my wedding, kind of brothers. There was always some tension in our relationship because of things we did that annoyed each other. That’s being family right? However, one day, something triggered a more significant conflict that made our relationship unpleasant. After sitting in the awkwardness for a couple of days I called him and outlined my displeasure with the state of our relationship, how it wasnt a relationship I wanted to have. We both agreed. I realised that in that moment we addressed the conflict on a relational level, rather than a content level, and since then our relationship has been conflict free. It felt like a switch had been flipped and our relationship is so much better.
I’d like to suggest that as Christians and leaders, addressing conflicts should be a top priority for us, with the goal of maintaining peace and unity. It’s equally important for us to become skilled at identifying where conflicts originate, whether they are rooted in content, behavioural patterns, or relationships. By doing so, we can become more adept at addressing and leading through conflicts, and that’s what this world, our families, our loved ones, our churches, our communities and our societies need. Everyone wins when we address conflict well.