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Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader

How You and Your Organization Can Manage Conflict Effectively


Craig Runde

Tim Flanagan

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A Joint Publication of The Jossey-Bass Business & Management Series and The Center for Creative Leadership

To Mac, Lindsay, Kyle, Kathy, and Matthew

Preface to the Second Edition

Since the completion of the first edition of Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader in the fall of 2006, much has transpired in the world—some good, some not so good. In six short years, we’ve seen unprecedented upheaval in the world economy, bank failures across the United States, government bailouts for major corporations, jobless rates at their highest levels since the Great Depression, military interventions in multiple countries, ousters of dictatorial leaders in the Middle East, defaults of entire countries, the demise of the U.S. housing market, and oil prices topping $100 per barrel. National politics seemed to reach new low points as bipartisanship all but disappeared. The explosion of technology continued to create opportunities for instant and constant information exchange while making face-to-face communication apparently less necessary. These issues, among many others, helped fuel rising stress levels and despair, creating a perfect storm for an increase in conflict.

It would be easy to dwell on the negatives. But we’ve also witnessed many amazing and inspirational events. In the wake of natural disasters, we saw communities come together in ways unimaginable just days before. We witnessed the historic elec­tion of President Barack Obama. Electric and hybrid cars have become a practical alternative. We store and share information “in the cloud.” Medical advances have made organ replacement almost routine, giving new hope to those suffering from previously incurable diseases and disabling injuries. Even complete face transplants have become possible. Astronomers have discovered countless new galaxies and biologists dozens of new species.

Through it all, we learned a lot. We’ve always been passionate about conflict, and we had much to share. We wrote two additional books, Building Conflict Competent Teams (2008) and Developing Your Conflict Competence (2010). With our colleague Sherod Miller, we designed a unique two-day course, Becoming Conflict Competent (2010). We believe that conflict brings opportunities at least as often as it stirs challenges, especially because it’s not a spectator sport. When you’re in conflict with someone, the only way to get the best out of it is to fully engage. We say that with absolute acknowledgment that it’s easier said than done. With that in mind, we have polished our message and introduced our conflict competent model: Cool Down, Slow Down and Reflect, and Engage Constructively.

The second edition features two completely new chapters: one that addresses the model and one that offers guidance for conflict in teams. We’ve added references to recent research and many new suggestions for “staying in the zone.” Examples are updated throughout. We’ve added a new constructive behavior, listening for understanding. We’re especially proud of the enhancements (including tips and exercises at the end of each chapter) that make this edition much more user friendly as a personal resource or a text for teaching others.

Craig continues to serve as a thought-leader in the field as director of the Center for Conflict Dynamics at Eckerd College. Tim and his wife, Mac, have launched their own firm, Custom Leadership Solutions, specializing in conflict resolution, team building, and leadership development training. Together, we have appreciated the acceptance and proliferation of conflict competence throughout the leadership development and executive education industry.

We have many people to thank for their support, assistance, and views. Our wives, Kathy Runde and Mac Flanagan, once again became expert reviewers, proofreaders, and book widows. Without their support, we’d be lost. Our children again inspired us, our colleagues grounded us, and our clients challenged us. Craig wants to thank his friend John Rogers for his helpful conversations and insights. Our editor, Kathe Sweeney, and her staff at Jossey-Bass have once again surpassed our expectations with advice, guidance, and encouragement.

We hope you find this new edition to be a valuable addition to your library. Even more, we hope you use it to enhance your personal leadership journey. If you discover just one single tip that enables you to address conflict in more successful and satisfying ways, we’ll be thrilled. After all, the world with no conflict would be a pretty boring place.

Craig Runde and Tim Flanagan
At the Chattaway St. Petersburg, Florida (our unofficial “office”)
October 2012