Like it or not, uncertainty and conflict are markers of 21st century life. Most who seek to exercise leadership recognize that a certain amount of ambiguity comes with the territory. Harder to accept perhaps is that if we want to make progress on our toughest challenges we must get used to dealing with conflict.
Managing Self Means Welcoming Conflict
Getting used to uncertainty and conflict is personal, internal work. It takes more than a brain. It’s heart and gut work. No one can show you exactly how you can build your tolerance for uncertainty and conflict. Happily, a good coach or facilitator steeped in the KLC leadership framework can create the container in which you can access the insight and build the will to experiment beyond your comfort zone. You’ll start to look for, even welcome, the uncertainty and conflict that signify a successful beginning to leadership work across factions.
Building tolerance starts with a deceptively difficult attitude shift.
See what happens if you adopt the attitude that conflict is a normal and necessary ingredient for progress. With adaptive challenges (and the tough ones are always adaptive) values are in conflict. And you’ll need all the key stakeholders involved to generate lasting solutions. You’ll need to collaborate with people who disagree with you. You wouldn’t need to exercise leadership if everyone agreed about the source of your challenge and the best way to solve it.
Elevating conflict – talking about different perspectives even with emotion in your voices – is the way forward.
Build Tolerance for Uncertainty and Conflict
Once you’ve accepted the reality that conflict is the way forward, you can begin the personal work of building your tolerance for both conflict and uncertainty. Here are some ways to start:
- Notice what uncertainty feels like in your body. Put yourself in situations where you don’t know exactly what will happen. Then practice staying present while your body silently screams, “Run!”
- As you go through your day – at home, at work, in the neighborhood – identify moments when you feel uncertain. Just notice. Get used to what it feels like to be uncertain. Notice whether or not it kills you. (It won’t.)
- Reflect on tough situations from the past. Remember times when you felt uncertain, or when there was conflict in the air. What happened? What did you like about how you handled it? What would you do differently next time the heat is high?
- In the coming week, look for moments in which you have the choice between engaging in a potentially difficult conversation or turning away from conflict. At first, just notice. No need (yet) to engage with the hard stuff. Just notice that you have a choice.
See if you can recognize (in your own life or in the lives of other people) that the clearer our sense of purpose and the more important the challenge we’re facing, the more willing we are to tolerate not only uncertainty but conflict.
Get used to uncertainty and conflict and you’ll make more progress on what matters most.