Leaders and Relational Challenges

As a leader, one thing is certain: you will face relational challenges. At times these challenges are easily resolved; other times they are time- and energy-consuming.

The easily resolved challenges generally are those which arise from simple misunderstandings. Recently I discovered that someone assumed I was upset with them because someone else had spoken to me about them. After they spoke with me of their perception, I had the opportunity to explain that it was a misunderstanding. They then were able to put it behind them and move on.

Not all relational challenges are so easily resolved however. More difficult relationship challenges arise when someone – or sometimes more than one person – decides to make your role as leader difficult. They may make accusations that are wrong and hurtful with total disregard for how they are affecting you, the organization, colleagues, and in the case of a Christian organization, the name of Jesus Christ. How should you as leader handle such challenges?

You must choose rational over emotional. While not easy, this is possible. When we are attacked, our first response as humans is always emotional. This is natural but generally neither productive nor helpful. You must intentionally choose to respond rationally rather than emotionally. The idea here is not to deny your emotions but to embrace them as part of what you are experiencing without allowing the emotions to control you.

We each handle emotions differently. Some may be vocal and expressive while others are quiet      and with little expression. As a leader you must be able to recognize and deal with your emotions so they don’t take over as you try to manage a difficult situation. Emotional responses are often angry and judgmental, and tend to make matters worse.

Choose your words carefully. Whatever you say in response to the situation, your aim should be to build up and uphold the good names of all persons regardless of the pain they may have caused. Even if you have facts you could use to destroy the other person(s), you should choose to build up rather than tear down. The moment you cross the line and begin tearing down, you have become precisely what you are fighting against.

The challenge is to focus on the issue and avoid attacking the person(s). Many leaders (and people in general) can’t seem to tell the difference. Character assassination does not address the real issue.

Get an objective perspective. As a leader you should have at least one person who can be completely objective and honest with you. Such a person has to be someone who does not depend on you for anything. This should not be someone who works for you, a family member or a close friend. The only investment this person should have in you is to be completely objective, transparent and honest with you.

An objective perspective is necessary because your emotions, biases and preferences are likely to get in the way when trying to assess and address the situation.

Resolving difficult relational challenges is never easy; this is especially true for a leader. How a leader handles such challenges usually impacts the whole organization.

How have you resolved difficult relational challenges in the past, or how are you doing it now as a leader?

Are you responding emotionally or rationally?

What effect is your response having on those you lead?

Is there anything you can change to improve the situation?

If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at errol@errolcarrim.com to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.