As a leader, you are constantly in a vulnerable position where people can come against you. Moving fast and leading well is your strong suit, but leadership also means you take the heat and criticism that comes with each decision. This is the not so fun part of leadership! It is also the reason you can jump to the wrong conclusions about the people you are leading which leads to unnecessary conflict. They make statements, throw attitude, or don’t do a task the way we asked and we “feel” that opposition deeply.
Our default is to view this “opposition” as a conflict that needs to be reprimanded or at least corrected. But what if it’s not an actual conflict? What if there’s an easier way to lead where we can avoid the unnecessary conflict and hard conversations and save those conversations for when it really matters?
One Way to Resolve the Unnecessary Conflicts
The book of Joshua has some great leadership advice. One of my favorite moments in leadership comes in chapter 22 after all the big battles are fought and all the tribes said “yes, we are on board to following what God has asked of us”. Because let’s face it, after the battle is when the team always tends to fall apart. It’s easy to get people to follow you wholeheartedly when there’s a battle to fight and a goal in front of you. But give them time on their hands to think and analyze situations, that’s when the internal conflicts can start brewing.
The Back Story:
After the battles were won and the Promised Land had been conquered, three of the tribes of Israel went back to their land and built an altar. All the other tribes of Israel screamed that these 3 tribes were now traitors. Most of the tribes saw this action of building an altar as a declaration of war, assuming those 3 tribes were now coming against Joshua and starting their own place of worship. The majority demanded a battle to right this wrong.
Asking a Question
Luckily, a rash assumption followed by a rash action was held at bay and a civil discussion happened instead. A discussion that simply asked the 3 tribes why they built the altar.
There wasn’t any yelling. No fighting occurred. There wasn’t even a “hard” conversation. Just a “hey, can you tell me what you were thinking when you did this?”
In Joshua 22:24-29, the offending tribes respond, “We actually did this from a specific concern that in the future… your descendants may cause our descendants to stop fearing the Lord…so let us take action and build an altar….to be a witness between us and you…so that we may carry out the worship of the Lord in his presence…we would never ever rebel against the Lord or turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offering…”
The situation didn’t change. They did build the altar. But the interpretation of why that action was taken was completely misunderstood. One side was ready to go to war assuming the 3 tribes were building an altar AGAINST the Lord. The other side was literally willing to give their life savings to build an altar to remind all the people to SERVE the Lord. One simple question revealed this was an unnecessary conflict that could easily be solved.
In our natural human state, we are trained to assume the worst about others before we assume the best. This tendency is amplified when you feel vulnerable. As a leader, that assumption is unacceptable.
Not every statement or disagreement is directly against you as a leader. Believing the best about those you are leading is vital. But it will require you to slow down a bit, ask a clarifying question, and more than likely, learning the act you thought was against you was actually just a different way to look at the same circumstance.
Whether you are leading your family unit or a huge organization, conflict will be a part of your world. But simply taking the time to stop and ask a question can resolve unnecessary conflict and allow you to run at the speed required to lead what God has put in front of you.