Healthy Conflict and Healthy Suffering Are Oxymorons

Healthy conflict and healthy suffering are oxymorons. Do you believe that conflict or suffering make you stronger? In my experience, an attribute of highly effective leaders they know their role is to leverage creative tension, not to cause suffering. Creative tension is a different experience from suffering. It is one that makes you stronger. However, it is easy to confuse this different experience with suffering.  

Conflict Is Different From Creative Tension

Conflict is a clash between an individual’s personality and something or someone else. Conflict is personal. It is about who you are. Whereas, creative tension is a clash between the role that an individual has chosen and something or someone else. It is not about who you are but about the role you choose to play. Conflict and suffering go together. However, with creative tension, suffering is optional.   

The Teen Spirit Rebels And Suffers Whereas The Adult Spirit Chooses And Creates

An important distinction is: the dominate mindset in a high-performance team is that of a serious adult not that of a rebellious teen. I sometimes wish my teen and preteen daughters would clean the cat box without resentment. I want them to draw pride from their roles as contributing members of our family.  I wish they would not rebel and suffer every time I compel them to do their chores. Lot’s of luck! They are teens. Where is Mary Poppins when you need her? I Wish My Teams Would Clean The Cat Box With Pride -- Not Gonna HappenHowever, the spirit of a rebellious teen in not the spirit of a serious adult. Being an adult means choosing to play a role above self-comfort. I was once in a supermarket and there was a women with a five year old child in a shopping cart seat. The child was pulling cans off of the shelves and throwing them in the isle. A store manager asked the women to either start playing the role of a responsible parent or leave the store.  

The Role Of Effective Leaders Is To Compel Others To Sacrifice

Leaders have to ask people to do things that they don’t want to do. It is part of their role. Indeed, one way to define leadership is compelling others to chose to sacrifice to achieve desired results. But was does compel mean? Compelling a team of teens requires a different mindset than leading a team of adults.  

The Levers Of Executive Leaders

Executive team leaders have a few key levers to guide the nature and direction of their organizations. These include: their own leadership styles, aligned intentions, incentives, who plays which role in a system-of-roles and strategic priorities. As such, the magic formula for a high performance organization is: the right team culture, the right leaders, with the right mindsets, playing the right roles within a complete system-of-roles, aligned around the right priorities. When executives get these factors right success becomes inevitable and suffering becomes optional.  

Creative Tension At Touch Points Between Roles Drives Innovation In Organizations

More specifically, executive leaders can design creative tension into a system-of-roles as an intentional driver of innovation. For example: the focus of a full on marketing leader is creating a winning value-proposition. The focus of a full on sales leader is gaining access to target customers and creating successful purchase moments. And the focus of a full on operations leader is delivering a quality customer experience. By definition, the goals of these three roles clash. However, if the leaders recognize these clashes as necessary creative tension not personal conflict, they can leverage these clashes to drive innovation.  After all, the best solutions in a business need to work for all key roles in that business. Of course, this only works is if the team culture is more serious adult than rebellious teen.   Please add comment to this post: Do you believe that creative tension is different than conflict? Do you believe that suffering is necessary or optional?   Here are some questions to apply to your team:

  • Are the requirements of the roles on your team clear?
  • Are leaders playing their roles full out as required?
  • In those areas where they aren't, what are the root causes?
  • Is suffering optional?

  Here are some links: Assertiveness Is A Key Leadership Attribute That Can Be Measured  A New Approach Coaching Abrasive Leaders