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Collaborative leadership in voluntary organisations
Collaborative leadership in voluntary organisations

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3 Generating conflict within the organisation

This section deals with conflict within organisations, discussing ways in which you can encourage and develop more and better challenge. Before you proceed, think about the last time you decided not to speak up about something that was important to you at work. Was this an opportunity lost? Or did you find an alternative way of approaching the issue? Further, when was the last time you actively went looking for a dissenting opinion within your organisation? Did this opinion add anything valuable to your thinking?

It is the view of the course authors that organisations need far more constructive conflict. Everyone holds different views and comes to work with different expectations about what their organisation is there to do. Little is gained by sitting on these concerns. In fact, organisations where there is little challenge can be dissatisfying and boring places, places where important things are left unsaid.

Three cartoon figures.
Figure 3 What makes conflict constructive?

Pragmatists recognise that relating to one another in agonistic ways might not always be possible. In our other course, Developing leadership practice in voluntary organisations [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , we discussed the issue of narcissism amongst leaders. It is certainly the case that narcissists, who are very sensitive to any kind of criticism, would find an agonistic approach intolerable. Others might be worried about falling out with colleagues or about the kind of time adopting this agonistic approach might eat up. In relation to narcissistic bosses, agonism need not only be a process engaged in with those at senior levels but can also be practiced between peers. In terms of the other two concerns, the next section discusses some practical ways in which you can instigate more agonistic challenge within the organisation.