I have been meaning to write about conflict for some time now as it relates to leadership, particularly in the context of Education. Once I realized that I wanted to move forward in this direction I referred to the Catholic Leadership Framework to look at how it deals with/addresses conflict. After some time reviewing the Framework I learned that it doesn't overtly talk about conflict. Rather, it provides leaders and aspiring leaders with ingredients for peace and harmony. As I stated above, conflict is everywhere and will arise even when working for peace, but I believe the Framework's focus on collaborative leadership would benefit stakeholders when working through a conflict and I would go as far to say that its supportive focus would lead to creating environments where many conflicts would be avoided.
Here is some of the language I read in the Framework that supports peace and harmony:
- "in collaboration"
- "build understanding"
- "demonstrate respect"
- "actively engage"
- "be highly visible"
- "easily accessible"
- "acknowledge and celebrate"
- "consider opinions"
- "treat staff equitably"
- "foster mutual respect and trust"
- "willingness to compromise"
- "distribute leadership"
- "maintain partnerships/connections"
- "develop with staff"
- "regularly assess"
- "use multiple sources of evidence"
- "participate with..."
- "recruit & select educators" & "retain skilled educators"
- "promote collective responsibility"
The list is lengthy, but the more the merrier. The Framework is full of "gold nuggets" that can provide school leaders with a perspective that is inclusive and positive. Leadership is not without its struggles but an optimistic, open, and proactive focus lends itself to successful outcomes for all stakeholders.
As an aspiring school leader I am appreciative of having such a document to refer to as a guide to assist me in becoming a better Catholic educator and community member. I once viewed the Framework as a daunting text but now that I have had time to reflect on the language used in it to support such things as balance and coordination I am much more open to its intention and core values, which can be applied to anything I do professionally and personally.
I recognize that it is not enough to simply read a text and become aware of what I should be doing. I really wanted to find out what it is like to actually be a school leader and have to deal with conflict so I reached out to some current and former leaders in my system to ask them about their perspective on dealing with conflict.
They were gracious in providing me with their perspective and "real time" experience. What they had to say was really neat because they all basically said the same things but with their own "twist" added on. All of them talked about being open, engaged, prepared, and appreciative. They recognize that conflict exists and will pop up, and although conflict is not fun (unless in a sporting contest) it is important to deal with it from a positive perspective and a willingness for peaceful win/win solutions (as much as possible).
Having worked with the majority of these people I can speak from experience when I say that they are not "push overs". They have high expectations and want the best for their school communities but they know that they can't get their on their own, which brings me back to the Catholic Leadership Framework. After reading their perspectives and reflecting on my time working with them I went back to the language I mentioned above and wasn't surprised when I realized that they fit with and operate from a perspective of peace and harmony. It's no wonder that I respect them and seek their counsel. They are outstanding models for me and it is key that I continue to learn from them and seek out people like them to learn from and converse with.
As I journey toward becoming a better learner and leader I will continue to strive to, and work toward, being an open minded, faith filled, and appreciative Catholic educator working from a foundation of peace and harmony. Conflict is inevitable, but building positive relationships and establishing myself as an open and appreciative team player can buffer the ill effects and heighten the benefits.