Learning to Resolve Interpersonal Conflicts more Efficiently through Transformational Leadership: A Study on Coaching

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Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Other units and institutes | D4 Julkaistu kehittämis- tai tutkimusraportti tai -selvitys
Date
2018
Department
Aalto University Executive Education - Aalto EE
Aalto University Executive Education - Aalto EE
Major/Subject
Mcode
Degree programme
Language
en
Pages
184
Series
Aalto University publication series BUSINESS + ECONOMY, 1/2018
Abstract
“It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it.”- Nelson Mandela - All leaders must deal with interpersonal conflicts and know how to resolve them (Kets De Vries 2017; Bass & Riggio 2006). It has also been argued that ever more interpersonal conflicts will inevitably occur due to the transformation of business models, mergers and acquisitions, organizational turnarounds, and digitalization and robotics (De Wit & Meyer 2010; Todnem By 2005). These changes have already impacted leadership, making it more complex than ever before (Avolio, Sosik, Kahai& Baker 2014; Uhl-Bien, Riggio, Lowe & Carsten 2014). Scholars generally agree that it is critical to resolve interpersonal conflicts as they arise as such conflicts lower group cohesion and decrease followers’ effectiveness, motivation and well-being (Tekleab, Quigley & Tesluk 2009; Di Carlo & Ranalli 2008; De Dreu & Weingart 2003). However, leaders often seem to avoid intervening in and resolving interpersonal conflicts because they find them unpleasant and intervention time consuming (Saeed, Almas, Anis-ul-Haq & Niazi 2014; Jehn 1997; Wall & Callister 1995). This study builds on Bass’s (1990; 1999) theory of transformational leadership and the previous literature on interpersonal conflicts (e.g. Deutsch 1990; Jehn 1997). The study investigates how leaders orient themselves when they encounter interpersonal conflicts, asking how leaders negotiate engagement and avoidance when called upon to resolve and manage interpersonal conflicts and how they can be supported in their conflict-management efforts through coaching. In order to better understand the complexity of intervening in interpersonal conflicts, and the effects of coaching, this study investigates three leaders, focusing on their leadership styles, their current approaches to solving interpersonal conflicts and the impacts of coaching on these approaches. These three leaders, who the author of this study observed and coached for 8 lengths of time varying from three months to two years, greatly differ in terms of their leadership styles, their approaches to resolving interpersonal conflicts and the industries in which they work in (new technology, energyand media). Methodologically, this empirical study represents action research. This has allowed the author to assume the roles of both coach and researcher; in action research, the researcher is actively engaged in solving problems and developing the business or organization and in producing beneficial information for daily operations, which can also lead to the researcher’s own profound transformation (Brydon-Miller, Greenwood & Maguire 2003). The empirical data collected during this study consist of 1) notes of observations of meetings, events, workshops and seminars in the organizations over a period of two three years, 2) recorded personal interviews (audio and video), 3) emails with the three leaders, and 4) notes of the coaching sessions, which totalled over 1 000 hours. Based on the research findings, the study argues that transformational leadership, as delineated by Bass (1990; 1999), is an unattainable goal for most leaders. Nonetheless, a transformational leadership style can be taught and learned. However, to change one’s behaviour, for instance in order to perform a more transformational style or to resolve interpersonal conflicts, requires more time than the ten weeks mentioned by some scholars (Grant 2016; Kets De Vries & Korotov 2007). The findings of this dissertation have various implications for leadership education and support. 1) Leaders would benefit from peer support, as it facilitates the development of their skills and self-esteem, thereby allowing them to better intervene in and resolve interpersonal conflicts. 2) Leadershipeducation should focus more on interpersonal conflict resolution and intervention. 3) Teaching should be pragmatic in nature, including concrete advice on verbal communication and other specific techniques.Companies would benefit highly from leaders who understand the reasons behind interpersonal conflicts because such understanding can prevent these conflicts from occurring. Moreover, the ability to notice conflicts as soon as they arise is also helpful in resolving them. In addition, companies would benefit from leaders with positive self-esteem, as such leaders possess the courage to confront such challenging situations as interpersonal conflicts.
Description
Supervisor
Tikkanen, Henrikki, Prof., Aalto University, Department of Management, Finland
Keywords
leadership, transformational leadership, interpersonal conflict, conflict management, coaching
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