Dealing with disagreements

All leaders encounter disagreements. Additionally, some situations require leaders to create disagreements and in others they work to solve them.

Leaders not only encounter disagreements, they land in the center of some. Additionally, they may become the focus and brunt of others.


A Defensive posture means you’re trying to prevent an opponent from scoring points. Defensiveness creates opponents and moves discussions from concepts, ideas, and solutions to people.

Defensiveness during disagreements creates positional arguments where participants are combatants and winning becomes personal.

The worst thing leaders do during disagreements is shifting focus from solution-finding to people.

One thing is certain. Disagreements that become personal distract organizations and waste resources.

Strong leaders leverage disagreements while weak leaders win arguments.

Overcoming defensiveness

Even though all leaders deal with disagreements, those new to leadership may stumble by advocating for one position rather than seeking broader solutions.

In addition, at the beginning of disagreements, withhold your solution. By doing so you free others to think creatively without feeling pressure to conform to your opinion. Another benefit of withholding your solution (at least for awhile) is you don’t have anything to defend.

Finally, understand that disagreements may create high potential environments where high heat molds great solutions.

A leader’s strength is best seen in an ability to remain calm and focused on solution-seeking rather than winning a disagreement.


What other ways can leaders avoid defensiveness?

What general strategies for dealing with disagreements do you employ?