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Leading Through Conflict

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Public officials across the state of Ohio are finding ways to bring communities together. Leaders help to bridge divides in the workplace, find common ground and encourage collaboration to move the mission forward.  

We reached out to alumni of the Glenn College Public Leadership Academy and asked them: What is your advice for leaders who are navigating through conflict and seeking constructive solutions? 

Commissioner David Kern, Defiance County

Keep the focus on the mission. The world we live in is getting busier and busier by the moment. We, as leaders, are being pulled in every direction. It is very easy to get distracted and lose the real focus of what we are trying to accomplish. We are elected or appointed to lead our communities and organizations not only through the fluid times but also the times of conflict and rough waters. Staying focused is imperative. 

Be ready to make those calls. Alone we do not have all the answers, nor will all the answers we do have be the correct ones. Making sure you have a strong, connected base is also a key to successful outcomes. Do not be ashamed to ask for help. Keep those contacts that you have made throughout your career on speed dial. Sometimes we get caught in the ruts of reinventing the wheel and waste valuable time. Chances are, someone in your professional contact list has been through a similar situation. Rely on them for advice on what worked and did not work for them, then mold it to fit your specific need.  

Lastly, know that compromise is an option. Not everything has to be one sided. You can still get valuable wins while making compromises. Quite frankly, compromises are what yield the best outcomes to the greater number of individuals. Working together, whether it be across party lines or on opposite ends of the boardroom, is paramount when you are going against conflict in decisions that need to be made. One of my favorite quotes is from Andrew Carnegie: 

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” 

Stay focused, rely on your networking connections and work as a team. With that, all obstacles can be overcome.  

Mayor Sharetta Smith, Lima

Communication is the foundation of collaboration!

Communication provides an avenue to build understanding and discover common ground. So much of leadership today is about bringing all voices to the table and facilitating open, respectful dialogues. When done right, this type of communication allows participants to step into the experiences and perspectives of others so that new innovative solutions can be explored. 

Rep. Adam Mathews, Ohio House District 56  

When we engage with others, whether within or across party lines, we must first recognize the inherent dignity in each of us.  

Keep Learning

The Divided Community Project in Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law provides dispute resolution and systems-design expertise to help local community and university leaders enhance community resiliency and prepare for and respond to events that polarize their communities. 

Conflict can arise based on personality or policy differences, and in some situations there may not be a mutually agreeable solution. However, we often have shared goals, if different methods of achieving them. Engaging together with the end goal in mind and clarity about that goal is crucial to avoid miscommunication, sidetracks and unnecessary antagonism.  

A leader has to model this engagement, treating people with respect even and especially when critiquing ideas.  

Similarly, the leader has to accept that their proposals can be sharpened and improved by criticism and empower those around them to give informed feedback.