Constructive conflict can be a strength

As leaders do not have a monopoly on good ideas, they should not be unduly concerned about working with people who have differing, and sometimes conflicting, beliefs, values and aspirations.

They should learn how to seek unity, not in conformity but in diversity. In doing so, they can have more and better inputs to develop their plans and improve their results.

Through the process, they can also strengthen their skills in negotiating with and influencing both allies and adversaries, and develop more options to move forward.

They can better understand sociopolitical terrains and build a wider network of relationships to support them for the greater good.

All these factors can enhance their ability to handle challenges, controversies and conflicts.

Organisations that are established, smooth-going and harmonious may have a tendency to take stability and security for granted. They may hang on to the status quo, cruise along and hope that nothing untoward will happen - something that is unlikely in the new world of disorder.

I am by no means suggesting we should be divisive. To initiate a conflict is to promote it.

On the other hand, keeping silent about it is to promote conformity.

Constructive conflict can compel leaders to put current plans, structures, systems and processes into a test tube for further analysis and reflection. It can promote new perspectives and spark creativity and innovation.

It can foster new approaches in using limited resources to achieve positive outcomes.

And it can help leaders become stronger and more resilient in running the long and hard road towards sustainable success.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline 'Constructive conflict can be a strength'. Print Edition | Subscribe