The Necessity of Conflict for Leaders
I love hockey.
I have long seen hockey as a game of beauty. The flow and rhythm of the game coupled with the creativity of the players elevates the game nearly to an art. My favorite current player is Alex Ovechkin, the captain of the Washington Capitals.
As in any sport the captain of a hockey team is expected to be a leader on the ice and off. While he is the only player on the ice allowed to discuss rule interpretations with the officials his most important role is to motivate his team and standing up for those that are following him. Sometimes this is handled by a discussion with the officials, other times this is handled by a stern word or big hit on a member of the opposing team, and still other times this means a physical conflict. As a leader, and a hockey player, Alex Ovechkin knows a little bit about conflict:
Conflict can be a scary word to church leaders. Images of elder meetings gone bad and cantankerous business meetings can come to mind. But it is my belief that not all conflict is bad. In fact, in the right context, a little bit of conflict is not only a good thing but something that we as leaders ought to be provoking.
Are your people uncomfortable during meetings and tired at the end? If not, they’re probably not mixing it up enough and getting to the bottom of important issues. Conflict shouldn’t be personal, but it should be ideologically emotional. Seek out opposing views and ensure that they are completely aired.
What I appreciate most about the video clip above is that both Alex Ovechkin and Brandon Dubinsky understand that their conflict is not personal. The conflict is about doing for the team what the leader needed to do. As they finish their scrum with a round of “good job, buddy” you get the sense that there will be no hard feelings about their issues. In the same way we, as church leaders, must learn to put our feelings aside and truly engage in intense dialog with one another when we are wrestling through decisions about the church. It is only when we feel comfortable enough with our team to truly engage in passionate debate that we will be able to lead our church to the next level.
Do you feel the freedom to engage in an intense discussion with members of your team when discussing the direction of your church?
Do your teammates, and those you lead, feel comfortable challenging your ideas or the ideas of other team members?
Do you and your team have the understanding that your conversations are intended for the good of the Kingdom, and not as a personal attack?