3 Keys To Managing Conflicting Leadership Styles

3 Keys To Managing Conflicting Leadership Styles

Have you ever found yourself butting heads with another leader in your company?

Do you ever read memos from others and wonder, “What are they thinking?”

Recently my husband and I set out to renovate and add an additional bathroom to our house. It was a project that we’ve talked about for years but finally found the time, energy, and desperate need to propel ourselves into action.

And it was stressful . . . and yes we fought!

One of my best takeaways from it however, besides my beautiful new bathroom, was observing how our different leadership styles played out overseeing our contractor.

I consider both of us to be very good leaders. We’ve both held leadership positions at work that include positive relationships and the respect of our colleagues. But we operate very differently, and suddenly we were both “managing” the same people.

My husband tends to be a behind the scenes manager, he keeps an eye on whether everything is proceeding smoothly and correctly but keeps a bigger distance. He doesn’t closely monitor “how” people work, but does make sure things are staying on track.

I, shockingly, am more of a “coaching manager”. I liked to check-in regularly with the contractor and see how closely things were to schedule. I kept tabs on which subs were coming what days, and I spent daily time chatting and joking with our foreman so we’d be comfortable with each other.

My husband found these daily check-ins and reports annoying and unnecessary.

Learn from us!

Here are the three most important keys I’ve found to working with another leadership style:

  1. Figure Out What’s Annoying You & Why
    Often times we find ourselves completely irritated by someone else’s behavior and in that moment, just chalk it up to them being an aggravating person with frustrating habits. If you take the time and space to step back, often you can trace the upsetting behaviors back to a different belief about leadership – how much management/contact people need or how trustworthy/motivated your colleagues are.Once you can trace a person’s style to their management beliefs, it becomes a) less of a personal conflict and b) it can be easier to engage them in a conversation about philosophy rather than calling out their behavior.
  2. Define clear boundaries
    Whether you and a colleague are sharing the management of the same employees, or your manager is working closely with you and your team on an important project, it’s important to set some ground rules. If you feel comfortable, I recommend spending time to talk about your leadership philosophies, how you like to manage your direct reports, and how you could check-in with each other. If that direct approach isn’t possible, you can still institute a regular check-in with the other leader so you are both clear on what your separate goals and responsibilities are for the next week, and who will work with whom to accomplish them.
  3. Open Up & Maintain Goodwill
    I’ll confess, my husband and I were never able to completely define clear boundaries but we were able to talk “remodel issues” out on our regular date nights, and make sure we connected on other topics as well. Many people think that work friendships and hanging out with work colleagues is a waste of time. But the truth is that studies have shown that we are much more likely to attribute positive intentions to those we know better. So if you want to get the benefit of the doubt from your co-workers, let them get to know more than just the “work” you.

Even if you’re not challenged by a leadership “face-off” at work, it’s never a bad time to consider your leadership philosophy and what the possible pros and cons of it are.

As you start to analyze your go-to style, you’ll begin to be more aware of other styles and how others avoid your “cons”. This is one way to appreciate what other leaders bring to the table and continually upgrade your leadership know-how in the process.

Comment below and let me know if you’ve ever butted heads working together with someone? How did you handle it?

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

Leave a Comment