3 ways to handle conflict as an authentic leader

There are different ways to handle conflict. You can go with the flow, or you can go against the current. During one of my Authentic Leadership KeynoteEvents, I asked an attendee in which direction they would row if I put them in a canoe in a rapidly flowing river? Most people would say with the flow. However, they choose to row against the flow.


I was feeling tired already, with a sense of not getting anywhere. On the other hand, I realised, the point the attendee made was very valid.

The attendee was talking about how to handle conflict. They believed they had to go against the flow. Otherwise, problems would not get addressed, and that caused friction. In other words, the attendee thought it was important to challenge the vision of others. And that caused her a significant amount of stress.

Go with the Flow

There is no denying that working for an organisation; you work as part of a team. It is also true that each person has a different personal vision and perspective and the organisation has a vision too. In any team environment, there will be conflict and disagreements. But we have a choice:  We can go and prove the vision of others wrong by going against it or find ways to adapt ourselves and by going with the flow, making the changes that are important.

Effectively, in both situations you are aiming for the same thing: Change in your organisation, implementing solutions that are more beneficial to everybody. But the starting point, the mindset is different. Going with the flow means that you learn to adapt yourself to the circumstances, going against the flow means you are looking to change others.

Sometimes it is more useful to step back.

Handle conflict the authentic way

Based on the discussion that happened in the group here are the six ways to handle conflict by staying true to your core personal values:

  • Have a vision. Using your vision and values measure if the decisions made are going against what you believe in.
  • What is the corporate vision? Do you “buy in” to the corporate vision? Is your corporate vision “great words written down and worth nothing”, or is it something that is “lived throughout the organisation” (starting with the highest executive).
  • Instead of focusing on what other people do or decide, measure your own decisions. You need to stay true to your vision and values.
  • Your organisation has a vision, and your team can benefit from having one too. Do you all agree on the organisational and team vision? Do you measure decisions against that vision? If you answered yes, to these questions, you might have to accept the decision made. Even if you think your approach is better than what others agree on.
  • How do decisions fit in with your vision and values? Are you in an impossible situation at work? Are you continually suffering stress caused by your work environment? If that is the case, you may have to decide that your future is not in that team or company.

Ultimately you can only hold yourself accountable for your reactions, your vision and the choices that you make in life.

What was the conclusion? You can find leaders at every level of an organisation. You don’t need to be a manager to be a leader, and you don’t need to be a leader to be a manager. But if you want to succeed as a manager, it is essential to be both.