In reading articles by Burns, Daniel Goleman “What Makes a Leader’, and Peter Drucker’s “What Makes an Effective Executive” I have been struck by the contrasting notions of the role and place of conflict that each of them reflect on in the dynamic between leaders and followers. Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence seems to ignore entirely the role of conflict in human relationships. Whereas Burns and Drucker seem to understand that anytime a group of humans are brought together and are working in common cause tension and conflict arrises. Is this to be avoided or subverted by having better EI? EI seems to be a leadership framework extremely uncomfortable with “disruptive” moments, conflict, and tension and places a premium on “considering others feelings” when making decisions. Ok….. well, I can make the decision that is unpopular with everyone, but right for the organization then signal and express how bad I feel because I took everyone’s feelings into consideration. Does that make me seem real? Does it help?
In my experience conflict, tension, and disruptive moments are essential in leadership and frankly can be extremely productive for all human relations if focused toward a goal. I do not mean it should be a constant, but a leader who allows for this to happen allows the group to reach a greater level of common consciousness and for everyone to feel heard. Disruptions whether, or not precipitated by the leader or other members of the organization over substantive matters of organizational direction or strategy are healthy and are always present in the context of change and with all human relationships.
I say if you are a leader become comfortable with conflict, tension, resistance, and disruptive moments. You may even have to create such an environment from time to time to energize your associates and fellow travelers. A big part of human life as the Buda and Jesus show us is struggle and conflict. Escape from it with inner peace, but in this world it will always be present even within yourself. It is productive in moving ideas forward, innovation, and clarifying values. As Hegal said of the dialectic “I have come to defamiliarize the familiar.” This is always disruptive.