Conflict Management: Solution-Based Leadership
Conflict is the part of leadership that no one truly likes. Feelings get hurt, relationships suffer, and it may detract students from seeking out leadership positions. What must be understood from the get-go is that solutions always should be the focus, not reflection on the problem. I always tell my students: act, not react. We can be students who sit and complain about the problem or be the springboard for positive change. With young students, the difficulty lies in lack of conflict resolution tools and with peer pressures. To teach these skills, directors can emulate and practice different situations and discuss potential solutions. One easy example could be how to handle choosing groups for solo and ensemble, hotel rooms for trips, or even bus seats. How can these situations be practiced and framed positively by the teacher to proactively address issues before they happen in real life? Do students care about each other? Your class environment and the way you prepare for difficult situations will make things easier in the future, even if it is a short-term investment in time. Lautzenheiser lists the common traits found in all leaders as: (a) the wherewithal to stand in their shoes, (b) to see from behind the eyes of others, (c) to pro-act for the welfare of all instead of react to the I/Me agenda of the day, and (d) choosing to understand before being understood. While practicing conflict opportunities in class will never be able to anticipate the actual problems found in the choral program, they certainly can bridge gaps of respect and care among all students, thus creating a safe environment for conflict resolution, leadership, and great music.