If you’ve ever attended a basic management course, you’d likely be familiar with the five types of conflict reactions: avoidance, compromise, competition, accommodation, and collaboration. What you’ve probably been taught, for example, is that collaboration is good and that avoidance and competition are bad. But how true is that, in reality?
According to a new study published in the Journal of General Management, the concept of contrarian leadership is introduced as a legitimate way through which conflict can be resolved. The scholars make the point that, yes, collaboration is something worthy of pursuit but there’ll also be times when an effective leader has to cultivate competition, for instance, based on the organisation’s unique context.
The research indicates the way to navigate through this terrain is by amplifying the leader’s authenticity via four specific behaviours.
Balanced processing: This is when you actively seek out views that contradict your own. You do this by listening carefully to what other people have to say and by taking their opinions into account. This ensures the conflict is resolved without resorting to impulse or bias.
Moral perspective: This is when your actions align with your values. It’s an approach predicated on your personal belief system rather than on what corporate culture demands. The conflict is managed not by what’s convenient and popular but by what’s ethically right.
Self-awareness: This is when you seek others’ feedback on yourself so that you better understand your strengths and limitations. It also means being prepared for the confronting truth that how you see yourself may contradict how peers and employees see you. Conflict is subsequently resolved with an eye on how your own behaviour impacts the people involved.
Relationship transparency: This is when you say what you mean and own up to mistakes. You don’t play games and don’t have hidden agendas. Conflict is therefore managed in a way that ignores the political gamesmanship that often characterises organisations.
As the scholars conclude, “contrarian leadership takes common practices and shows why leaders should sometimes do the opposite”.