The Role of Leadership in Navigating Team Dynamics, Conflict and Organisational Success

Posted in : Supplementary Articles ROI on 29 April 2024
Seán Grant
Core Impact Ltd
Issues covered: Conflict Management, Tuckman, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Model

In every organisation, conflict is not just inevitable—it's necessary. When properly managed, conflict can support team development, create innovative approaches and elevate performance to high levels. Within this article I want to explore conflict and models from the past that I feel are very appropriate to our modern approach.

Understanding Conflict and Its Origins

Workplace conflict arises from a variety of sources. Personality clashes often occur when diverse characters interact, each bringing different perspectives. We are all a combination of our past beliefs and experiences and so naturally differ in our personality, values, communication styles and expectations. Organisational elements also come into play with resource limitations which can spark conflicts as teams or individuals compete for the same organisational support or materials.

These conflicts, if not managed with insight and skill, can escalate into significant breakdowns and often disciplinary issues, impacting team cohesion and productivity. Effective conflict management is essential not only for resolving these disputes but also for understanding and addressing the underlying issues that lead to them. By identifying and addressing these issues early, leaders can prevent conflict escalation and maintain a constructive working environment.

Navigating Through Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development

Understanding how conflict plays a role in team dynamics is crucial, particularly through the lens of Tuckman's stages—forming, storming, norming, and performing. During the forming stage, teams are typically cautious and conflicts may be hidden as members focus more on being accepted than voicing differing viewpoints. However, as they transition into the storming stage, these suppressed disagreements can surface as conflicts. This stage is critical as it is an opportunity for the team to address underlying issues that can negatively impact progress.

Leadership is paramount in guiding teams constructively through these conflicts, using them as opportunities for growth and learning. As teams advance into the norming stage, the effective management of earlier conflicts aids in establishing strong norms that create collaboration and respect. By the performing stage, teams typically harness conflicts constructively, leading to high efficiency and robust performance.

Strategic Use of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Model

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Model is a model central to our leadership training for conflict. It offers five conflict management styles: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding and accommodating. It can be said that each style is appropriate in certain situations, however I urge caution on this, which I’ll discuss soon. ‘Competing’ may be necessary when a clear, assertive direction is needed, while ‘collaborating’ is crucial when pooling team expertise to solve complex problems. ‘Compromising’ can facilitate quick resolutions when time is limited and ‘accommodating’ might be used to maintain harmony within the team. Ideally collaborating is where we want to go, ‘avoiding’ is where I urge caution. Avoiding is said to be appropriate when the stakes are low, however experience has taught me small conflicts have huge potential to become big problematic conflicts. No conflict should be considered insignificant; when we have an awareness, we should deal with it. Better still, we should create the processes to ensure we are aware of it.

Leaders should be trained in these styles to learn to apply them strategically, depending on the situation at hand. This flexibility not only aids in resolving conflicts but also helps in preventing potential disputes from becoming destructive.

Conflict is Good

Psychological safety is an important element within teams to encourage members to voice their opinions and disagreements without fear of repercussions. This environment allows for healthy debate and discussion, which are essential for innovation and problem-solving.

Leaders who demonstrate constructive conflict management promote a culture that values transparency, accountability and continuous improvement. Such a cultural framework not only encourages individuals to express differing opinions and ideas but ensures that these contributions enhance rather than detract from organisational success.


Effective conflict management requires more than just managerial skills; it demands leadership skills. By understanding the dynamics of conflict and stages of team development we can utilise strategic frameworks like the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Model to guide teams through developmental stages like those proposed by Tuckman. Leaders can transform potential disruptions into powerful opportunities for growth and success. The effectiveness with which conflicts are managed can define the cultural landscape of an organisation, turning challenges into catalysts for innovation and performance.

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This article is correct at 29/04/2024

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Seán Grant
Core Impact Ltd

The main content of this article was provided by Seán Grant . Contact telephone number is 07554998909 or email

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