Great Leaders Navigate Conflict & Personalities


There are a lot of books and articles that talk about the difference between a leader and a follower. The same can be said for the difference between a mediocre, good and great leader.

Things like vision, strategy, recruiting, decision making are all things that make the list.

But I think there is a skill that sets certain leaders apart.

The ability to navigate personalities. 

For a pastor, the personalities they encounter in committee or staff meetings is just like a meeting at any company. You have people who are older, younger, want the church to reach more families, more singles, more empty nesters. There are people who have been in a number of churches, have only been to this church.

One of the dynamics I’ve seen in churches is that the passion level goes up because people give to the church; are married to someone who leads an area that needs more money, time or attention; or you encounter the person who started the ministry that you are talking about killing or cutting the budget of.

When trying to resolve conflict or working towards a decision, a great leader understands the dynamics in the room. Things like:

  1. What does each person hope to accomplish?
  2. What will each person try to get in the result: comfort, control, approval or power?
  3. Why are they advocating for something?

Let’s look at each one:

1. What does each person hope to accomplish? Each person, including the leader is trying to accomplish something in a conversation, conflict resolution or decision making process. Some times they are good things and some times they are selfish things. It is important to understand what they are. Once you know a person’s goal, you are able to either help get there or at least understand why they are advocating for something.

2. What will each person try to get in the result: comfort, control, approval or power? These are the four idol of the hearts that Tim Chester says we are all prone to have (usually one is dominant). This idol will pop its head up in conversations and cause people to either push for something too quickly, make people fearful and hesitant or cause people to be compliant to avoid more conflict.

3. Why are they advocating for something? What happens in many churches is that people in a decision making meeting see themselves not as leaders but as advocates. That is not leadership. No one in a meeting should be advocating for kids ministry, student ministry, women’s ministry, traditional worship or anything else. The moment you notice advocates, you need to coach them to understand their role or remove them. This often happens in a budget meeting. Once you know why someone is advocating for something, you are able to navigate through the conversation.