Essay: Leadership in conflict situations

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  • Leadership in conflict situations
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“Many  leaders  in conflict situations are ‘hostages’ to their inner fears and other negative emotions and fail to see the opportunities in resolving them”  . In fact, it is an opportunity if conflict is dealt with constructively. Leadership is a vast and important subject, yet full of confusing ideas and terminology, open to widely different interpretations. It can be definite also vary enormously. Examples of leadership can be extremely diverse too. We lead when we manage employee in work place or any organization. We lead when we organize anything. We certainly lead when we manage projects, or develop a new business. We can find leadership in every sort of work place, and in every sort of adventure and project, regardless of scale, regardless of financial or official authority. And so, given the many ways in which leadership operates, it is no surprise that leadership is so difficult to define and describe. As you will see, leadership can, necessarily should be approached from a variety of standpoints. A helpful way to understand leadership is by exploring leadership thinking, type and theories using in some situations as work place conflicts and how he manages the conflict in people’s organization.

When an individual manages to influence the minds of several people to behave in a certain way towards the fulfillment of a specific or a general goal, then that individual is said to have exhibited leadership qualities, and is considered as a leader. Many Africa countries have some organization conflict, because of the lack of good leadership styles still a serious problems. Therefore, the case of Mali is particular in this domain, like others Africa country. Generally conflicts occur when the relationship between leader and workers are not good, or if leaders and people are not good. The leader gives a sense of direction and of purpose through the articulation of a compelling worldview. The years either side of the turn of the century saw the process of leadership become more of a social as well as a psychological process of influence. In effect, more effort was put into determining the nature of the leadership processes that were manifest in organizational settings. Perhaps, because of the vast amounts of effort that have been expended on uncovering the factors associated  with effective leadership in organizations, there  has  sometimes  been  pessimism about  the fruits of this labor because of the many different approaches and frequently contradictory findings (Miner 1975), although the field is less imbued with a sense of negativity nowadays. Today we can find many kind of leadership-Situational contingency, participative, transactional. Specifically this research will explore two theoretical approaches (Transactional and Transformational) applied in two groups. The first group includes Malians leaders and the second one includes Chinese’s leaders. Conflict appears to be an integral component of human functioning, it has manifested in diverse formats for millennia. The term could be classified according to a myriad of parameters and variables, and this creates difficulty in formulating an operational and exact definition. Robbins (1998) believes that certain common denominators underlie most definitions, and that formal definitions should strive for broad flexibility.  He accordingly develops the following definition: “A process that begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected, or is about to negatively affects something that the first party cares about.” (1998, p. 434.

Dynamic leaders know that conflict is a natural part of working in groups. They learn and practice effective strategies for managing conflict, including ways to:  Manage their own emotions, address their own conflicts; address others’ conflicts, practice assertiveness, aid negotiation, promote mediation. Conflict is a natural part of working in groups, because different people have different ideas and viewpoints. Sooner or later, every leader will have to deal with a conflict between two or more people. What matters is how the leader and group members address the conflict. Dynamic leaders know that conflict usually doesn’t go away by itself. It may seem to disappear, but then it pops up again in an unexpected place or time. To do this study the researcher was do this procedure: We describe the research questions, hypotheses, and research design relevant to both leadership styles and organizational conflict management in some detail further on. The researcher was employed both quantitative and qualitative methods to provide richly descriptive, yet scientifically valid, accounts of leadership and organizational conflict management processes. Quantitative aspects include measurement of leadership styles based on questionnaire survey style, in using Conflict Management Questionnaire (The Thomas and Kilmann (1974) Conflict Mode Instrument (MODE) and Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire the MLQ, Form 5X-Short (MLQ 5X) (Bass & Avolio 1995).The qualitative approach specifies the perception of workers in the many place of work situations.  Then the researcher was developed through content analysis of data derived from observations, questionnaires and published indicators. The methodology that the researcher was used in this research consists of five phases.

Phase one was devoted to review of literature and previous studies that have relationships with our research. The Phase two was devoted to tests of hypotheses relevant to the relationships among leadership styles and organization conflict management. Then the conflicts, the causes, the types of conflict and the different approaches to handle conflict have been developed.  An expected third phase focus on the development of research instruments, data collection, data analysis and interpretation. Phase fourth, was devoted to confirm, establish causality, discuss and extend previous findings. The fifth phase was specified the recommendations for practice and for further researches.

The following section concerned an overview on Mali country, the research background and context, the indicators of conflict in Malians organizations, the research questions and objectives, the significance of the study, the statement of the problem, the limitations and delimitations, the terms and definitions of concepts.

1.1. presentation of Mali country

Figure 1. The map of Mali

The Republic of Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali is bordered by Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast to the south, Guinea to the south west, Senegal and Mauritania to the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 square kilometers (480,000 sq mi) with a population of 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako. Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara, while the country’s southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers. The country’s economic structure centers on agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali’s prominent natural resources include gold, being the third largest producer of gold in the African continent, and salt. About half the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (for which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. During its golden age, there was a flourishing of mathematics, astronomy, literature, and art. At its peak in 1300, Mali covered an area about twice the size of modern-day France, and stretched to the west coast of Africa. In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa, France seized control of Mali, making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) joined with Senegal in 1959, achieving independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation. Shortly thereafter, following Senegal’s withdrawal from the federation, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali.

Mali was once part of three famed West African empires which controlled trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, and other precious commodities. These Sahelian kingdoms had neither rigid geopolitical boundaries nor rigid ethnic identities. The earliest of these empires was the Ghana Empire, which was dominated by the Soninke, a Mande-speaking people. The empire expanded throughout West Africa from the 8th century until 1078, when it was conquered by the Almoravids.

The Mali Empire later formed on the upper Niger River, and reached the height of power in the 14th century. Under the Mali Empire, the ancient cities of Djenné and Timbuktu were centers of both trade and Islamic learning.

The country’s climate ranges from tropical in the south to arid in the north. Most of the country receives negligible rainfall; droughts are frequent. Late June to early December is the rainy season. During this time, flooding of the Niger River is common, creating the Inner Niger Delta. The nation has considerable natural resources, with gold, uranium, phosphates, kaolinite, salt and limestone being most widely exploited. Mali is estimated to have in excess of 17,400 tones of uranium (measured + indicated + inferred). In 2012 a further uranium mineralized north zone was identified. Mali faces numerous environmental challenges, including desertification, deforestation, soil erosion, and inadequate supplies of potable.

Mali’s key industry is agriculture. Cotton is the country’s largest crop export and is exported west throughout Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. During 2002, 620,000 tons of cotton was produced in Mali but cotton prices declined significantly in 2003. In addition to cotton, Mali produces rice, millet, corn, vegetables, tobacco, and tree crops. Gold, livestock and agriculture amount to 80% of Mali’s exports. Eighty percent of Malian workers are employed in agriculture while 15% work in the service sector. However, seasonal variations lead to regular temporary unemployment of agricultural workers. Mali’s resource in livestock consists of millions of cattle, sheep, and goats. Approximately 40% of Mali’s herds were lost during the Sahel drought in 1972–74.

In Mali, there is a railway that connects to bordering countries and approximately 29 airports of which 8 have paved runways. Urban areas are also known for their large quantity of green and white taxicabs. However, a significant sum of the population is dependent on public transportation.

1.1.1. Education: Public education in Mali is in principle provided free of charge and is compulsory for nine years between the ages of seven and sixteen. The system encompasses six years of primary education beginning at age seven, followed by six years of secondary education. However, Mali’s actual primary school enrollment rate is low, in large part because families are unable to cover the cost of uniforms, books, supplies, and other fees required to attend. In the 2000–01 school years, the primary school enrollment rate was 61% (71% of males and 51% of females); in the late 1990s, the secondary school enrollment rate was 15% (20% of males and 10% of females). The education system is plagued by a lack of schools in rural areas, as well as shortages of teachers and materials. Estimates of literacy rates in Mali range from 27–30% to 46.4%, with literacy rates significantly lower among women than men. The University of Bamako, which includes four constituent universities, is the largest university in the country and enrolls approximately 60,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

1.1.2. Health: Mali’s health and development indicators rank among the worst in the world. Life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 53.06 years in 2012. In 2000, only 62–65% of the population was estimated to have access to safe drinking water and only 69% to sanitation services of some kind. In 2001, the general government expenditures on health totaled about US$4 per capita at an average exchange rate. Medical facilities in Mali are very limited, and medicines are in short supply.

In July 2009, Mali’s population was an estimated 14.5 million. The population is predominantly rural (68% in 2002), and 5–10% of Malians are nomadic. More than 90% of the population lives in the southern part of the country, especially in Bamako, this has over 1 million residents.

In 2007, about 48% of Malians were less than fifteen years old, 49% were 15–64 years old, and 3% were 65 and older. The median age was 15.9 years. The birth rate in 2012 was 45.2 births per 1,000, and the total fertility rate was 6.4 children per woman. The death rate in 2007 was 16.5 deaths per 1,000. Life expectancy at birth was 53.06 years total (51.43 for males and 54.73 for females). Mali has one of the world’s highest rates of infant mortality, with 106 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007.

Mali’s population encompasses a number of sub-Saharan ethnic groups. The “Bambara” are by far the largest single ethnic group, making up 36.5% of the population. About 80% of Mali’s population communicates in Bambara, which is the country’s principal dialect. Mali’s official language is French, but numerous (40 or more) African languages also are widely used by the various ethnic groups.

The varied everyday culture of Malians reflects the country’s ethnic and geographic diversity. Most Malians wear flowing, colorful robes called boubous that are typical of West Africa. Malians frequently participate in traditional festivals, dances, and ceremonies.

1.2. Research background and Context

Businesses nowadays are operating in a turbulent environment where organizations are searching for measures that will allow them to improve their performance and competitiveness (Dodd, 2003). Conflict is generally regarded as disagreement regarding interests or ideas (Esquivel and Kleiner, 1997). In addition organizational conflict is regarded as the discord that occurs when the goals, interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible with those of individuals or groups block or frustrate each others in an attempt to achieve their objectives. Conflict are inevitable part of organizational life since the goals of different stakeholders such as managers and staff are often incompatible (Jones et al., 2000). In addition, Loomis and Loomis (1965) argue that Conflict is an ever-present process in human relations. That is why various organizations have changed their approaches to enable them to manage their organizations effectively to avoid conflicts at all costs. Conflict is a fact of life in any organizations as longer as people compete for jobs, resources, power, recognition and security. In addition, dealing with conflicts is a great challenge to management (Adomi and Anie, 2005). Conflicts commonly arise when employees interact in organizations and compete for scarce resources. Employees in various organizations are organized into manageable groups in order to achieve common goal, therefore, the probability of conflicts to arise is very high. Nowadays, most serious conflicts make headlines in the newspapers, which might affect the public image of the company. Conflicts have both negative and positive outcomes to the individual employees and the organization at large. There is no one source of conflicts which occurs in organizations at all levels of management (Barker et al., 1987). In social life, conflicts do occur but they are managed by family members, friends and relatives. The same case applies to organizations, when conflicts arise; it needs to be resolved by management for the sake of the organizational growth, survival and enhance performance. However, conflicts are rarely resolved easily, to a certain extend most conflicts are managed, as individuals work out differences (Barker et al., 1987).

In Mali country, organizations or work places conflicts can occur within groups (intra-group conflict) or among groups (inter-group conflict).In any organization, there are many causes of conflicts; however conflicts within an individual usually arise when a person is uncertain about what task is expected to do, if not clearly defined by the supervisor or the person in charge. Furthermore, if the tasks of individuals working as a group are not clearly defined by the management they will lead to more conflicts. Conflict between individuals may result from role-related pressures. Conflicts would arise between individuals and groups if the goals are not specified for individuals within a group (Duke, 1999).

Tree basic types of conflict are in Mali: task conflict, and interpersonal conflict, procedural conflict. Group members may disagree about facts or opinions from authorities. The interpretation of evidence may be questioned. Task conflict can be productive by improving the quality of decisions and critical thinking processes. Another potential area for conflict is the interpersonal relationships within the organization. The term interpersonal conflict is used to indicate the disagreement that most people call it as a personality clash. This clash may take place in the form of antagonistic remarks that relate to the personal characteristics of a group member or disregard any organizational goals to antagonize a particular group member. Conflict of this type is expressed through more subtle nonverbal behaviors. There may be icy stares or, at the other extreme, an avoidance of eye contact. Interpersonal conflict may be inevitable and must be managed for optimal group co-existence. Procedural conflict exists when group members disagree about the procedures to be followed in accomplishing the group goal. New procedures may be formulated and a new agenda suggested. Even the group goal may be modified. According to (Barker et al., 1987), procedural conflict, like task conflict, may be productive.

However, the major cause of organization conflict is limited resource and interdependence. In addition employees compete in organization because of limited resources. Competition among the employees might take place in the form of promotion, financial, manpower equipments and information resource. It also reflects that managers do not formulate plans properly which at the end leads to conflicts. Either plans are in place or they are not interpreted and communication to employees effectively and in good time for implementation leading to conflicts. In the variables of types of conflicts which are very common in many organizations, employees agree that interpersonal conflict and inter-group type of conflict are very common in organizations, which accounts to 55% both combined, may be its because of sharing limited resources or furthering individual interest at the expense of organizational interests.

Throughout history, particular perceptions/philosophies have developed regarding conflict. The so-called traditional view, which was primarily based on attitudes that prevailed about group behavior in the 1930s and 1940s, maintained a rigid, formalistic approach to conflict. Conflict was regarded as dysfunctional and had to be avoided at all costs by role players. The more modem approach originated in the discourses and precepts of the human relations theorists, who stipulated that conflict is a natural phenomenon, that it is inevitable and that it should be managed as such (Reynecke, 1997).The paradigms of these theorists have become somewhat archaic-it is now generally accepted that conflict should be measured in terms of functionality, i.e., whether it manifests as functional and contributes to personal/organizational growth, or whether it is dysfunctional and impedes group/individual performance (Alper, Tjosvold, & Law, 2000; Caudron, 2000;Neuper, 1996).It remains  a fair assumption that if an individual experiences conflict as destructive and dysfunctional, subsequent behavior will be adjusted correspondingly, and that such behavior will impact negatively on the individual’s wider sphere of influence (Womack,  1998). This assumption is supported by amongst others Reynecke (1997) as well as Song, Xie, and Dyer (2000). Under such conditions, within organizational context, non-achievement of stated goals and non-performance then becomes both a feasible and logical consequence. The traditional triad of individual,  group and organizational goals and objectives remains constant and in an inviolate relationship-this essentially purports that dysfunctional conflict between individuals will impact negatively on organizational performance.

There are many ways to resolve conflicts – surrendering, running away, overpowering your opponent with violence, filing a lawsuit, etc. The movement toward Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), sometimes referred to simply as conflict resolution, grew out of the belief that there are better options than using violence or going to court. Today, the terms ADR and conflict resolution are used somewhat interchangeably and refer to a wide range of processes that encourage nonviolent dispute resolution outside of the traditional court system.

However certain forms of organization conflict resolution of Mali include for example: Negotiation that is a discussion among two or more people with the goal of reaching an agreement. Mediation that is a voluntary and confidential process in which a neutral third-party facilitator helps people discuss difficult issues and negotiate an agreement. Basic steps in the process include gathering information, framing the issues, developing options, negotiating, and formalizing agreements. Parties in mediation create their own solutions and the mediator does not have any decision-making power over the outcome. Arbitration is often used in commercial and labor/management disputes. In fact it is impossible to limit descriptions of leadership merely to being a typology, or a good leader in organization conflicts management. But in this research we want to answer some questions in accordance with our objectives.

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