By David Santiago Associate Albert Square Mediation Limited
“Today’s leader is very different from before, because he/she should be wiser than an expert … must accompany all changes … formerly a good leader was one who could have all the wisdom, and now he/she must learn to share and invest in people so that they give the best of themselves. ” – Deborah Epelman (www.metas.com.br/lideranca/a-arte-de-liderar)
Lately I have devoted some of my time to studying leadership and its evolution with an emphasis on the period between the Industrial Revolution and the modern era of computer technology and web networking. I have also considered the relationship between leadership and the existence or absence of conflicts in all types of workplaces including factories, workshops, offices and public service facilities.
For many people, leadership is a challenging but nonetheless very attractive option. Leaders get to be in charge. As well as often being financially well remunerated they can very positively influence the people around them and ultimately make a difference, although the sheer weight of responsibility can be a disincentive.
Leadership skills do not always come naturally and it is becoming increasingly important for leaders to be trained and also to learn mediation skills not just when they embark on their careers but throughout their careers.
Consider one particular Western phenomenon, the self-made, leader or entrepreneur who may have the expertise and means to get to the top but nonetheless suddenly finds him or herself in the position of being a leader. However successful such people may have been they may feel uneasy and uncomfortable in their new roles, perhaps because they are unprepared or have not established a proper rapport with the people that they are responsible for.
Ideally, all leaders should be intuitive or charismatic leaders but in practice that doesn’t always happen and many, be they executives, managers, supervisors or team leaders do not have the necessary skills.
What you may ask yourself has this got to do with the prevention and management of conflict? Why do leaders need mediation skills?
Leaders need training to meet the considerable challenges, many unforeseen, that will inevitably arise, often without prior notice. As part of this, in an era in which information is accessed and provided online, team meetings are video conferenced, and documents can be edited and shared online, the modern leader must be technically proficient.
However, there is a lot more to leadership than just being good with computers. Many modern workplaces are provided with state-of-the-art technology and those in charge may wrongly assume that everything that they need to be successful is in place. In an the era when the challenges have never been greater, the modern leader needs to be approachable and emotionally competent and must understand the individual and collective needs of his or her work force. Additionally and very importantly, a good leader that can really make a difference has to understand his or her own limitations.
My considerable experience as a trainer, coach , mediator, manager and auditor has taught me that many leaders lack the levels of emotional intelligence that they need to work effectively. Essentially, they don’t appreciate that before they can know or lead others they have to know themselves and many lack the essential skills that they need.
Increasingly, leaders who wish to be successful or who are encountering difficulties are providing workplace training and conflict coaching for themselves and their workforces. They greatly appreciate the significance of this training and see the benefits such as reductions in absenteeism and litigious claims and very importantly, increases in productivity.
This is particularly true of large European and US based companies, many of which are committed to improving working conditions and do so very successfully.
However, one key thing for these enlightened organizations is that they recognize the importance of those in leadership positions being trained and therefore being provided with the 21st Century tools to deal with workplace conflicts effectively!