Resolving conflict vs. solving problems

I’m often asked about how leaders resolve difficult issues. One of the things that leaders are required to do, if they lead well, is to be able to handle the more difficult issues in a way that brings reconciliation and resolution.

By Ken Behr

When I was in industry, one of the common responses I heard too often from many of the managers is that a particular difficult decision was, “above their pay-grade.” Resolving conflict is an issue that Jesus addressed, as well. Jesus recommended that a person giving a gift at the altar go
quickly and resolve a conflict (Matthew 5:23). In Matthew 18, the instructions that Jesus gave to the church included 1) going directly to the individual, 2) bringing others into the issues when necessary, and 3) finally, telling it to the church.

We all need to follow the Biblical instruction on resolving conflict.

One of the additional comments that I offer in these circumstances is that there is a difference between resolving an issue and solving a problem. Leaders would benefit in understanding that not every problem can be solved; however, leaders have the opportunity
— as well as the responsibility — of resolving conflict and making the difficult decisions.

Resolution doesn’t mean the issue has been solved; it means that leadership has made a decision. They have dealt with the issue conclusively. As it has been resolved, it is finished or done. The resolution can then be communicated where necessary, and it is no longer an issue that needs to be addressed.

Often, the resolution might not be ideal but might be necessary based on the present understanding, resources and needs of the organization.

Leaders can and must make the tough decisions. Leaders are, unfortunately, often the last to know, and others are looking to them to act — and act decisively — when conflict is becoming destructive, or even distracting.

Ken-Behr-bloggerKen Behr is the executive director of Faith Dialogue, a faith-based nonprofit in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.


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