Conflict takes multiple forms. An obvious form is when people take up arms against one another. I recently completed a doctoral dissertation looking at perceptions about leadership that may be useful when Northern Uganda emerges from conflict. While I am accustomed to expressing my own opinion on various topics, one challenge of my dissertation was to address the perceptions of leaders in the Acholi sub-region of Northern Uganda without injecting my personal views. I found many points of consensus and lack of consensus among more than 50 leaders in that part of the world; one hope of mine is that the leaders of the region can build on their areas of consensus and take steps to seek consensus, or an agreement to disagree, on those points where consensus did not emerge.
Businesses also find themselves in periods of conflict and post-conflict. Periods of change are one source of perceived conflict. Change can be driven by market forces, by competitors, or by strategic change such as bankruptcy, merger, or acquisition. One observation, based on 25 years as a business consultant, is that organizational leaders must somehow build on points of consensus and address points of non-consensus in order to sustainably emerge from comparative conflict toward a sense of progress, if not peace.
Some who find themselves in positions of leadership, whether in a nation, a region, or a business, will find that their historic leadership practices and roles are somehow less suited for the new context in which they must, or may, lead.
Leadership in Post-Conflict Business
Businesses emerging from bankruptcy, mergers, acquisitions, and significant strategic change may exhibit symptoms similar to geo-political regions emerging from armed conflict. Leaders may need to help colleagues and constituents define new roles and responsibilities. Leaders may need to mediate skirmishes over turf. Leaders will need to clarify and reinforce a new vision and help constituents buy into the new vision by using tools and techniques to engage the constituents in the development of strategies and action plans to achieve the new vision.
Leaders in businesses emerging from conflict may need to help their colleagues reconcile with one another and with new realities. In conjunction with their reconciliation role, leaders may need to be intentional about verifying the end to historic conflicts so that an emerging period of peace is not interrupted by a resumption of conflicts that never were fully resolved.
Just as sustained economic development may not be possible in regions emerging from conflict until there is a cessation of violence and until effective leaders emerge to champion peace, growth in the wake of periods or episodes of conflict in a business may not be possible until leaders take appropriate steps to secure the peace and pursue a plausible vision for the future.