Speech: Becoming a Competent Conflict Leader in Christianity Perspective
I am pleased for the opportunity to talk to you about becoming a competent conflict leader from a Christian perspective. I am aware that you know the nature of human beings makes it impossible to eliminate all forms of conflict from society. As a leader, one should be ready to handle conflicts of varying intensities, as not a single leadership model can claim to have all the answers to the amicable resolution of disagreements (Tahir, Almas, Anis-ul-Haq, & Niazi, 2014). On the contrary, we should approach conflicts as sources of valuable lessons in humility and understanding. Difficulties and conflicts can herald a new grace of God if they are dealt with accordingly, but pray that God makes you a genuine peacemaker (Sande, & Johnson, 2011). Most models of the management of conflicts examine the concern for self against the concern for others. However, we are glad that we can learn from various instances in the Bible where people entrusted with leadership demonstrated appropriate approaches to conflict. In this regard, we shall examine ways in which a leader could manage conflicts from the Christian and Biblical perspectives. High levels of spiritual competency coupled with a concise of Biblical teachings and principles are essential for Christian leaders that have to solve conflicts of every nature.
Christian leaders ought to have a sense of culpability to align their actions to the will of God. Some leaders view conflicts as unchristian and illogical while others perceive them as unnecessary distractions. Unfortunately, some leaders do not have the training and knowledge required to handle disagreements competently; some procrastinate the decision to intervene in the hope that the problem will dissipate (Campbell, 2018). However, I would like to state that such an approach is grossly inefficient because the conflict could potentially escalate and create momentous challenges for all concerned. Therefore, the manner in which leaders respond to disagreements could be detrimental or beneficial.
From the outset, I would like to remind you that Christians have been called to peacemakers for them to be sons of God and this divine promise should inspire Christian leaders when faced with challenging situations (Barthel, & Edling, 2012). Irrespective of an individual’s preferred leadership style, the quest for peaceful resolution of disagreements should take precedence because it could potentially lead to unintended consequences. The worst mistake you can make as a leader is to take sides in a conflict. However, it is important to pray that God gives you the wisdom you need to maintain neutrality and impartiality when dealing with conflicts (Pegues, 2009). In doing so, your conscience will be clear because you will know you have acted in a manner acceptable before God.
In Proverbs 15:18, we learn that tempers are the cause of all arguments, but patience brings the ultimate peace. Leaders ought to be patient when handling disagreements between individuals or among people. By being patient, the leader will have the chance to listen to both sides and make a reasoned judgment. On the contrary, impatience guides the leader to make hasty conclusions that stand little chance of bringing the peace desired. An effective leader is one that exercises self-control irrespective of the circumstances. However, as Christian leaders, you must remember that self-control is a perfect fruit of the Holy Spirit. Being angry at all times is a disgrace to any leader and a dishonor to Christ. Leaders should respond slowly and cautiously to conflict as opposed to being impulsive. The same teaching is evident in Proverbs 29: 11, which teaches about a fool’s response to anger and the wise man that keeps it in check. In this regard, Christian leaders should be ready to take the time required, desist from hasty decisions, and act judiciously when dealing with conflicts.
An important lesson for leaders is the need to evaluate personal attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses. A leader must be worthy of acting as a mediator before taking on the task. We learn from the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 7 verse 5 that we have to remove the log in our eyes before we can spot the speck in our brother’s eye. This lesson is fundamental to conflict resolution from a Christian perspective because it teaches the value of honest judgment. You will recall the advice King Lemuel received from his mother, who advised him to desist from drinking alcohol when making judgments. King Lemuel may be a relatively unknown Biblical figure, while his mother is equally unknown. However, we should not care much about their identity; rather we should examine the implications and worthiness of the advice.
Approaching every conflict rationally is important for leaders because it creates a level ground and gives the leader the clarity of mind needed to draw worthy conclusions. On the same note, the lesson to learn is that drinking wine and being intoxicated makes the leader shun the law and pervert the justice of all concerned. This worthy piece of advice is applicable in all aspects of human interaction. In the modern leadership models, leaders are expected to demonstrate assertive sobriety when handling conflicts and refrain from taking sides (Jones, 2012). Leaders have the unenvious role of listening to people’s private matters while acting with decorum. The idea of perverting the law and trampling on the rights of the weak and the downtrodden is critical because it falls at the center of meaningful conflict resolution. Taking bribes and inducements to make favorable judgments is unchristian and criminal. Hence, the leader must desist from acts that could cast him or her in the bad light and erode the parties’ confidence in his or her impartiality.
In the same context, Lemuel’s mother pleads with him to open his mouth for the speechless, judge righteously, and stand up for the rights of the poor (Proverbs 31: 8-9). In modern organizations, leaders might want to be seen as defenders of the weak. However, their actions betray them when they rule disputes in favor of the elites. The rich do not need leaders to speak on their behalf because of their privileged position. On the contrary, the poor require the protection of leaders because they do not have a guarantee of their rights. The voiceless equally cannot stand against the powerful and so the leader should act as a genuine mediator and an impartial listener to both sides. According to Johnson (2018), effective mediation requires the mediator to avoid all forms of generalizations and prejudices against any or both of the parties. On the same note, the leader ought to demonstrate emotional intelligence to ensure that feelings and emotions do not affect his or her judgment or relationship with the concerned parties (Harvard Business Review, 2015). Incidentally, this lesson does not mean that leaders should disregard the rights of the rich and the powerful. In essence, it implies that leaders should not take sides in any conflict irrespective of the parties involved.
People respond to conflicts in fundamentally different ways, but the most recognized are avoidance or neglect, competition or domination, sharing or compromise, accommodation or appeasement, and collaboration or integration (DuBrin, 2013). Chronological interests might guide the choice of the approach of the parties to the conflict. However, the common ground is that the interests center on the self and the others. Participants often consider how their words and actions will influence the relationship they will have with the others. Christian leaders should consider conflicts as perfect opportunities to apply Biblical concepts and approaches and to examine ways through which Biblical figures handled similar cases. Such examples from the Bible emphasize the need for the leader to evaluate the motivation behind each party’s interest in the conflict.
One prime example from the Bible that illustrates the need to find the reason a person would make a false claim against another is the case of King Solomon and the two widows that contested over a living and a dead baby (1 Kings 3: 16-28). In essence, this story best captures the most appropriate approach to conflict management from a Christian viewpoint. First, the two women that came to Solomon were harlots. King Solomon could have been within his right to refuse to give them audience because of their lifestyles. However, he humbled himself and gave them the time to state their cases. The implication for Christian leaders is that they should not make preconceived judgments about parties to a conflict but should rather assume a detached approach when dealing with warring people (Pascoe, 2011). Second, we learn from the account that both women claimed to be mothers to the living baby. In every conflict, the Christian leader will encounter people that claim to be on the right while apportioning blame to others. Hence, prudence on the part of the leader is imperative.
Solomon used unmatched wisdom when he dared the two women to bring a sword and asked them to divide the living one into two. However, the real mother to the living baby was stirred with love for her baby and opted to make concessions for the sake of the baby’s life. The one who insisted on dividing the baby into two did not have an emotional attachment. On the contrary, she would have loved to see the baby cut into two because that would have occasioned instant death. The final judgment that Solomon made illustrates the wisdom of the highest order. In the same way, modern leaders should be ready to make such decisions during intractable deliberations and mediations (Rodgers, 2017). As Christian leaders, we must be prepared to take active measures, think judiciously, and proceed with caution when dealing with parties with ulterior motives.
The Biblical account as narrated in the Book of Nehemiah 5: 1-13 gives important leadership and management of conflicts. In the narrative, Nehemiah faced complicated disputes even as he faced the challenge of rebuilding the wall as he had vowed. Some argued that they required grain because of their numerical strength. Others offered that they had to mortgage their fields and vineyards to acquire grain while the famine persisted. Furthermore, others argued that they had borrowed money because of the need to pay taxes to the king. In essence, the conflict was so intense that it threatened to bring down the house of Israel. Essentially, Nehemiah demonstrated exquisite leadership and conflict management skills that Christian leaders should emulate.
A critical lesson from the Nehemiah story is that leaders should never ignore problems. Nehemiah was preoccupied with the noble and demanding task of rebuilding the wall and could have chosen to ignore the minor squabbles over grain. However, he halted the wall project to attend to the problem. Equally, we learn that the effective management of anger is crucial when solving problems (Runde, & Flanagan, 2013). Some leaders might choose to bypass conflicts or assign them to other people. However, Nehemiah never showed such apathy but rather chose to work towards a solution. Equally, Nehemiah was self-controlled and patient. One of the reasons leaders fail to solve problems is that they react hastily and make mistakes in the process. Anger and response do not complement each other. Constant prudence is imperative under such circumstances. Most importantly, the narrative shows that godly leaders have to seek counsel when dealing with challenges. The narrative says that Nehemiah took the time to ponder over the issues the people had raised. Taking the time to consult with oneself or others gives a person the chance to view the conflict from an objective point.
The problems modern leaders face might be different from the ones that Biblical leaders faced. However, one common factor is that they bring discord and create a hostile and toxic environment, and tend to draw in people not originally involved (Goodman, 2016). In this regard, it is important for Christian leaders to learn the Biblical approach of confronting people engaged in a conflict. Being discreet about the approach to the conflict is vital. For instance, the Bible teaches in Matthew 18: 15-17 that if a brother causes harm against you, the most appropriate approach is to go and point out his fault to him. If he agrees to his fault, the question must end at that point. On the contrary, it is advisable to take one or two other people so that they may bear witness in the future. If he declines to listen to them as well, the next best option is to tell the church. However, should he fail to listen to the church, he should be regarded as a tax collector or a pagan. In this Bible story lies critical values about the desirable approach to conflict resolution. In this narrative, Jesus taught the people to follow a systematic approach to resolving a conflict. Modern Christian leaders should endeavor to follow a similar approach when dealing with difficult people. Management principles teach the need for urgent conflict resolution. However, it is important to remember that taking the time to resolve conflict often yields the fairest outcome.
As I conclude, I would like to remind you that conflict is common and has its roots in the original fall. Adam sinned and shifted blame to God and his wife. For time immemorial, conflicts have occupied an integral part in human relationships. Conflicts are common in relationships, marriages, and places of work. Furthermore, conflicts between nations are common as evidenced by the intractable wars. Apparently, being in discord is inherently human. Irrespective of this, we ought to remember the divine promise that we shall be called sons and daughters of God if we seek to make peace where none exists. For the above reasons, I implore you to take the challenge and practice conflict resolution from a Christian perspective.
Barthel, T. K., & Edling, D. V. (2012). Redeeming Church Conflicts: Turning Crisis into Compassion and Care. Ada, MI: Baker Books
Campbell, A. H. (2018). Global leadership initiatives for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Hershey: Information Science Reference
DuBrin, A. J. (2013). Leadership: Research findings, practice, and skills. Australia: South-Western Publishers
Goodman, A. (2016). Preparing for Mediation. St Albans, UK: Tarquin
Harvard Business Review. (2015). HBR’s 10 Must Read on Emotional Intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
Johnson, T. (2018). Crisis leadership: How to lead in times of crisis, threat, and uncertainty. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Business
Jones, R. D. (2012). Pursuing PeacePeace: A Christian guide to handling our conflicts. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway.
Pascoe, S. (2011). Leadership in times of crisis: Lessons to be learned from experience in emergency situations. East Melbourne, VC: Centre for Strategic Education
Pegues, D. S. (2009). Confronting without offending. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.
Rogers, N. H. (2017). How mediation works – theory, research, and practice. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited
Runde, C. E. & Flanagan, T. A. (2013). Becoming a conflict competent leader. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Sande, K. & Johnson, K. (2011). Resolving everyday conflict. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Tahir, S., Almas, S., Anis-ul-Haq, M., & Niazi, G. S. K. (2014). Leadership styles: relationship with conflict management styles. International Journal of Conflict Management, 25(3), 214-225, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-12-2012-0091