How to Lead Your Team Through Conflict

When you think about conflict, what comes to mind?

You probably think of arguments, misunderstandings, and disagreement. But conflict on a team is actually a sign that your team is working towards success not failure! It’s a natural part of human interaction when it's done in a HEALTHY way.

In fact, research has shown that constructive conflict within teams can lead to increased creativity and innovation. According to a study by Charlan Nemeth, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, groups that engaged in healthy debate generated more original ideas than those that did not.

Yes, you read that correctly: healthy conflict can lead to greater creativity, but also improved problem-solving and stronger relationships! That's because conflict encourages teams to evaluate different perspectives and ideas critically. While conflict may initially create tension, resolving it can also strengthen relationships and foster a sense of unity within the team, where creativity has space to bloom.

However, navigating these conflicts requires effective leadership to keep conflict from shifting to an unhealthy place. Suppose you are not honed in on your leadership skills. In that case, you may lack the ability to communicate clear direction, exacerbating tensions and preventing conflicts from being addressed in a timely and constructive manner. In turn, team members may feel unsupported and unsure of how to navigate conflicts, leading to increased frustration and disengagement.

If you are unsure how to lead your team through conflict, keep reading for strategies that will help you navigate challenges.


Strategies for Navigating Conflict as a Leader

Foster Open Communication

Create an environment where team members feel safe expressing their opinions and concerns. Encourage open dialogue and active listening. When team members feel heard, they are more likely to engage constructively in conflict resolution.


Set Clear Expectations

Define acceptable behaviors and establish ground rules for how conflicts should be addressed within the team. Clarify roles and responsibilities to avoid misunderstandings that can lead to conflict.

For example, on my team there has been conflict in the past that I've had to come into to help mitigate. During this time, I set the expectation that it not only gets resolved, but that the team members come together to create a path forward that is respectful and assumes good intent in one another. I also set the expectation that there is no gossip or conversations with other team members about this conflict so that it doesn't ripple out into other areas of the company.


Address Issues Early

Don’t let conflicts simmer and escalate. Address them promptly before they have a chance to spiral out of control. Encourage team members to speak up when they notice tension or disagreement brewing. A great book to provide your team as a resource is: Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson.


Focus on Curiosity over being Right

Help your team look beyond individual stances and focus on getting curious. Encourage them to explore why they hold certain views and what they hope to achieve. By understanding each other’s perspectives, they can find common ground and work towards mutually beneficial solutions. Often misunderstandings or conflict comes from not understanding where the other person is coming from. If you choose to lead your team to be CURIOUS instead of accusatory, you'll see better results.

Examples of curious questions: 

Can you help me understand your perspective on this issue?

This question shows that you are open to hearing their side and value their input.

What do you feel is the main cause of our disagreement?

Identifying the root cause can help in addressing the actual problem rather than its symptoms.

How do you think we can resolve this conflict?

Inviting their ideas for resolution can make them feel involved in the solution process.

Is there something I might have done differently that could have prevented this conflict?

This shows self-reflection and a willingness to take responsibility.

How can I support you better moving forward?

This demonstrates a commitment to improving the working relationship.

Are there any misunderstandings or assumptions we need to clarify?

Clarifying misunderstandings can often resolve conflicts quickly.


Focusing on shared goals can help in finding common ground and working together constructively.


Promote Collaboration

Emphasize the importance of working together towards a shared goal. Encourage brainstorming and problem-solving sessions where team members can collaborate and leverage each other’s strengths to find creative solutions.


Remain Neutral

As a leader, it’s essential to remain impartial and avoid taking sides in conflicts. Your role is to facilitate the resolution process and ensure that all voices are heard. Avoid showing favoritism or allowing personal biases to influence your decisions.


Encourage Empathy

Help your team members see things from each other’s perspectives. Encourage empathy and understanding by asking them to put themselves in each other’s shoes. This can help defuse hostility and promote a sense of camaraderie within the team.


Focus on Solutions, Not Blame

Shift the focus from assigning blame to finding solutions. Encourage the team to brainstorm possible solutions and evaluate them objectively. Emphasize the importance of learning from mistakes and using conflicts as opportunities for growth.


Follow Up

Once a conflict has been resolved, follow up to ensure that solutions are implemented effectively. Monitor the situation closely and be prepared to intervene if conflicts resurface or new issues arise.


I often reach out to team members who I know may have been in conflict and ensure that the resolution is still in place and that both parties are feeling good and supported. I also lead them through resolution and addressing any underlying frustrations. Without this kind of support, it's easy for team members to feel alone in a conflict and for it to go from healthy to unhealthy FAST!


Lead by Example

Demonstrate positive conflict resolution skills in your own interactions with team members. Show them that conflicts can be resolved respectfully and constructively and that disagreements need not damage relationships.



Leading your team through conflict requires patience, empathy, and strong communication skills. By fostering open communication, addressing issues promptly, and promoting collaboration, you can help your team navigate conflicts successfully and emerge stronger than before. Remember, conflict is not the enemy; it’s an opportunity for growth and learning when managed effectively.

Are you looking for a coach to develop you or your team through trainings or workshops? Amanda speaks and trains on various topics related to leadership and team building. Learn more here!


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.