Leadership, Change, and Conflict Interpersonal skills

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Leadership, Change, and Conflict   Interpersonal skills and personal interactions are influenced by personal characteristics and individuals views on communication. Communication is a process that takes into consideration these characteristics, and can often be applied to the creation of a variety of views that can influence how interactions are conducted and the outcomes of these interactions. In recent years, interpersonal skills and communications have been assessed relative to cultural and social differences and the influence that individual development can have on the interactions in the workplace setting.   When determining a route towards implementing improvements or changes in the workplace setting, organizations have considered the impact of leadership and assessments of change theory, with a specific view of conflict, as they relate to the ability to transform an organizational structure.

When hospitals, for example, determine the necessity for becoming learning organizations, the identification of change and the leadership directives often shape a view of the conflict related to resistance to change. These factors, then, require a consideration of the specific nature of leadership, the ability to maintain effective interpersonal communications in the midst of change, and the opposition elements that can extend from the imposing of change directives without consideration for the needs, concerns and questions of the workplace population.   Leadership   Before organizations can recognize the importance of their leadership potential, the must first understand who a leader is. On the most basic level, a leader can be defined as "someone who occupies a position in a group, influences others in accordance with the role expectation of the position and coordinates and directs the group in maintaining itself and reaching its goal" (Raven, 1976, p. 37). A leader has the ability or need to foment change by leading people and encouraging them to follow him and work toward his vision. A leader will appeal to the heart of her followers while a manager is more practical and appeals to the practical side or the brain of his subordinates. In many cases a leader creates energy in the organization through his passion for the job at hand. But leadership within the organizational structures also must consider the necessity of the leader to attain group, organizational and societal goals (Avery and Baker, 1990, p. 453). At a time when increasing organizational capacity and the constantly changing structural climate are common within an organization, the task of employee management is more critical than ever (Baird and Frohman, 1988). Many organizations have attempted to change their managerial styles, but most theorist recognize that the most effective means by which to promote employee management is through effective use of leadership.  

Brown (1996) supports the nine necessary behaviours of leadership, that include: 1. developing people; 2. ability to influence others; 3. encouraging team work; 4. empowering people; 5. using multiple option thinking; 6. taking intelligent risks; 7. being passionate about work; 8. having a strong clear vision; and 9. stretching personal capacity. These nine characteristics can not only be used to describe organizational leadership, but also to represent the concept of a leader as a whole. The most important role of a leader is to impact the employees or people she/he leads.

By promoting the potential of others, organizational leaders can affect the interpersonal interactions in their departments and improve the workplace conditions. At the same time, effective leadership can also support the implementation of necessary changes in the workplace setting by reducing opposition and conflict caused by resistance to change.   A good leader attempts to promote the leadership abilities of those whom he leads as a means of providing direction and improving the chances that goals will be met. It is not simply the job of a leader to give orders and delegate jobs, but also to delegate authority so that others can also make decisions, delegate work and lead others. Effective leadership does not come from attempting to do "it all yourself" but instead, from the knowledge that management means delegation and trust in others abilities. It has also been argued that this focus on the management of human resources and the ability to secure trust are factors that cultivate organizational loyalties and reduce resistance.   Leaders must also find the most affective means by which to do what needs to be done, thereby defining a direction for the organization or collective. Leaders cannot lead from a purely rigid perspective; instead, they must be flexible and consider the many different options and choices presented in each new leadership scenario. At the same time, it is natural, if not important, that leaders be willing to take intelligent but well-thought out risks as a component of defining organizational direction. One of these risks might be trustingin the opinions and actions of another worker, and delegating authority. Though these may not appear to be risky ventures, to the developed leader, they may appear risky. In order for the leader to demonstrate the greatest capacity for himself and his workers, he must be willing to take a number of chances.   Change   Change theory suggests that individuals often view change as problematic and reactivity is common when change is initiated without consideration for resistance. One of the most difficult elements to address in the workplace setting is the implementation of change. The structure of many organizationorganizations requires consistency and operational compliance as component of job participation and employees recognize this consistency as a part of their daily operation. The introduction of new protocols, new initiatives, and new operations in the organizational setting is often met with considerable resistance, and the development of strategies for introducing change is a necessary part of the process to improve the overall conditions in the workplace setting.   The common challenges met by organizational leadership when attempting to improvenew work initiatives or workplace change include: the argument that there is not enough time or help to implement changes; that the changes are not relevant; the challenge of creating assessments and measurements of the outcomes of change; the problem of diffusion; and the need to consider both the strategy and purpose of workplace change. The development of change principles for the implementation of an educational directive and learning environment in the organizationsetting, then, can result in the resistance to change unless effective leadership views the progression of the change initiative and focuses on an effective means of determining change in light of possible resistance or conflict.   Effective leaders become leaders through their process of communication. While management suggests the simple conveyance of information, effective leadership is based in the interactions between leaders and employees, as a process of the conveyance of information, including directives for change. The relationships that develop between leaders and those they intend to lead isessential to the continued success within organizational structures, and defines the process of developing loyalty. Effective communication and interaction is more important than the constraints of management in creating trust, creating a system for contact and interaction necessary for checks and balances, and the support of relationships that determine organizational loyalty. In an age when internal structures change constantly, the retention of employees is an important way of keeping the workplace consistent and improving the level of care provided within the organizational focus. By developing a sense of loyalty and reducing opposition to change through effective leadership, it is possible to benefit the organization significantly by a relationship that was based on open communication.   Conflict   The concept of conflict has been the source of study of a number of organizational and social theorists and defining conflict has been viewed as an important part of successful organizational development. Simply speaking, conflict is present when two individuals, groups or organizations support dichotomous views on the same issue. Social theorists have maintained that conflict can be both positive and negative in the development of organizational change, but the management of conflict requires an understanding of the factors that influence the initiation of conflict and the way in which conflict shapes human interactions.   Conflict theory is based on a number of defining elements within modern organization. Within the scope of organizational or societal interactions there appeared to exist a propensity towards conflict based on the differentials related to things like specific ideologies, ethnicity, genderand class structures. Sociologists have long recognized that society, including the society of an organizational culture, is inherently based in social divisions and that conflict arises when there is considerable recognition of the differences, both ideological and social, between the different self-interests within any group (Collins, 1993). Essential to an understanding of conflict theory is the fact that in the midst of conflicting elements of a social group, there is little forum to completely end conflict without putting an end to the different elements of the organization, and, therefore, conflict and conflict theory are inherently directed towards a means of partial attainment of goals determined by necessary compromise (Collins, 1993).   When applying the concept of conflict, then, to group function in the organizationenvironment, it should be recognized that conflict is most commonly perceived as a negative element that is preventive to the positive function of a group. Group decision-making can be difficult when internal conflict arises, and conflict has been viewed as the factor that influence the capacity to pursue the essential characteristics of a positive group process: safety, free interaction, appropriate levels of interdependence, inclusion, cohesiveness, trust, influence, accomplishment, growth, and conflict resolution (Uhfelder, 1997). In recent years, theorists have asserted that group dynamics affect decision-making, and evaluating the nature of the components of group dynamics through the process of determining specific outcomes has allowed for important views on the variables influencing internal group outcomes relative to the development of conflict resolution.   The Impacts for the Workplace Setting   Group dynamics, conflict resolution and the decision-making process are dependent on the perspectives of a leader, whether externally motivated or a leader initiated within the group process. Characteristics of the leader are commonly defined as variables that influences the collective identity, and leadership directness, for example, has been linked to process directness as a predictor of quality in group decision-making processes (Peterson, 1997). These characteristics are also at the heart of understanding both conflict and conflict resolution. At the same time, it has also been recognized that other factors define the process of group determinations that result from conflict, including variables like the use of consensus to define the decision-making process and the development of a greater individualized segmentation within the collective, a process described as vigilance (Neck and Moorhead, 1995). Understanding group dynamics demonstrates the fact that there is a difference between individual and group decision-making processes and that the characteristic qualities of group determinations often reflect the individual perspectives of the leader or members of the majority. Further, it can be asserted that there is a link between the successful process and corresponding applications and the development of consensual beliefs through the assertion of individual characteristics.   Theorists have recognized that individuals in organizational settings tend to make decisions based on what they already know, on the patterns of experience and knowledge that are common and familiar (Lopez, 1991). As a result, it can be argued that within the organizational structure of the organizationenvironment, conflict resolution is based on a process that is individual to the group, and is influenced by different characteristics of the group, including the diversification of the organizational structure and other factors that differentiated the group and individuals with a group. As organizationorganizations increase in cultural diversity, for example, many individuals need new information in order to effectively communicate in diverse communities, organizations, workplaces and societies, and this is especially true as it relates to the process of conflict resolution (Lopez, 1991). Lopez (1991) has even gone as far as to argue that cultural diversity in the workplace inherently changes the group process, and as a result, necessitates to pursuit of varied approaches to understanding different perspectives and addressing different ways of problem solving, different ways of conflict resolution, different visions and different expectations (Tovey, 1995; See also Maznevski, 1994).   Conclusion   Effective leaders definitively demonstrate influence that exceeds both formal authority and supervisory responsibility. If a leader is effective, then he/she demonstrates an incremental influence that is not directly connected to the formal authority (Vecchioet al, 1988). This suggests that leaders do not necessarily have to be the top officials in a company, but that leadership can be demonstrated by individuals with no formal authority (Vecchio, et al, 1988). It is also clear that business communication must be out-come oriented, and this is should also be the goal of effective leadership (Brown, 1996). It has been readily recognized that communication has implications, both good and bad, and that the most effective way to address unwanted communication issues is for leaders and employees to consider the implications of their communication processes prior to initiating them. Effective leaders effectively communicate by listening, asking good questions and offering sound responses.   Effective leadership is a product of the role of the leader along with the incorporation of many techniques and personal attributes that contribute to their interactions with employees. Because the basic role of management in the past has existed to simply demonstrate policy considerations, the difference between leaders and managers is demonstrated in the characteristics of each, and suggests the need to integrate a variety of different types of leaders in order to reduce opposition to change when defining a process of change in the organization organization.   References   Collins, Randall (1993, Winter). What Does Conflict Theory Predict About America's Future? Sociological Perspectives, pp. 289-303.   Neck, C. and Moorhead, G. (1995, May). Groupthink remodeled: the importance of leadership, time pressure, and methodical decision-making procedures. Human Relations, v48 n5, pp. 537(21).   Peterson, Randall (1997, May). A directive leadership style in group decision making can be both virtue and vice: evidence from elite and experimental groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v72 n5, pp. 1107(15).   Raven, B. & Rubin, J. Social Psychology: People in Groups.   Heathfield S M, 2006, Your Guide to Human Resources - Change, Change, Change: Change Management lessons form the field - www.humanresources.about.com - retrieved on September 28, 2008.