Conflicts arising amid healthy, non-toxic organizational cultures carry opportunities rather than drawbacks. Intelligent leaders know that toxic employee-leader conflicts represent failures of leadership. Mature leaders transform conflicts into constructive debates that can only benefit their decision-making and problem-solving.

“Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” – Ronald Reagan. 

Conflict is an integral part of human relations and relationships. From the perspective of leadership coaching, how leaders handle conflicts has a significant impact on the effectiveness of their leadership.

We tend to view conflicts as necessary evils of the human condition. We exist and have different opinions. Get us into situations where we have to deal and work with others, and conflict is inevitable. Like most other highly emotional aspects of our existence, conflicts are only destructive if we perceive them and relate to them as such. From the perspective of intelligent leadership, conflicts can be constructive.


Conflicts aren’t inherently destructive. 

Leader – Employee Conflicts: a Failure of Leadership? 

Leaders and employees often don’t see eye to eye. It may surprise you how differently leaders see themselves and their actions from how their employees perceive them.

Left unaddressed, this gap can undermine trust, making it impossible for leaders to influence and engage their employees meaningfully. Executive coaching perceives the reduction of this gap as a worthy challenge that can elevate leadership and improve organizational cultures by leaps and bounds.

Is the existence of this gap a failure of leadership? In the leader-follower relationship, it is the leader’s responsibility to communicate effectively, reach out, empower employees, and motivate them. Leaders must be the proactive party in this setup. Failure to be proactive leads to the appearance and widening of this conflict gap that can lead to a complete breakdown of leadership.

The good news is that executive coaching can help leaders identify the problems that lead to leader-employee conflicts and address them.

Leadership Coaching Can Help

The first step to curing an ailment is to find its causes and eliminate them. Some of the possible causes of the leader-employee disagreement gap may be:

  • A lack of congruence between leaders’ actions and communication
  • Communication breakdowns resulting in misunderstandings
  • Unclear communication
  • Low self-awareness on the part of the leader

To establish a baseline for coaching efforts, executive training programs may resort to collecting 360-degree feedback.

Once the width of the employee-leader divide becomes clear, coaches can define a set of objectives they will try to meet with their clients to address the roots of the problem.

Working on leaders’ self-awareness and self-assessment skills can also improve the effectiveness and accuracy of determining the extent of the leader-employee gap.

Reframing the Conflict

Few people thrive on conflict. Conflicts are high-stress situations for most of us, so we do our best to avoid them. In the context of business coaching, however, conflicts can be productive.

Leader-employee disagreements, provided they aren’t toxic, can expose a variety of alternative perspectives. They allow leaders to consider different solutions and analyze potentially useful views. Constructive conflicts often give birth to optimal solutions.

Intelligent leaders ensure they communicate their proposals in ways that leave room for debate and diverse opinions. And they learn not to fear conflict.

“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” – Warren G. Bennis.

Research shows that not seeing eye to eye with leadership makes multi-team organizations more effective. What’s more, over time, these benefits tend to multiply and amplify.

The Benefits of Constructive Debate Beyond Diverse Perspectives

Savvy leaders can derive many other practical benefits from constructive conflict and debate.

  • Harnessing the power of consensus. Constructive debate allows stakeholders to identify and develop common ground based on shared values and organizational purpose.
  • Expanding knowledge and skills. By taking part in constructive debate, employees and leaders sharpen their skills and expand their knowledge.
  • Empowering employees. Organizations that encourage constructive debate engage and empower their employees, sending them the message that their opinions matter. 
  • Improving problem-solving. Debate facilitates critical thinking. It allows executives and managers to make better decisions and solve problems more effectively.


Intelligent leaders understand the power of consensus. 

Business coaching appreciates vibrant, debate- and coaching-focused organizational cultures. Such cultures encourage engagement, stimulate decision-making and allow people to contribute to the best of their abilities. They are essential for sustained organizational scaling and success.


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