Shake up Harmony

Wall Street Journal, February 2014. “The High Cost of Avoiding Conflict at Work.” Joann S. Lublin

David Dotlich, a leadership and succession coach, has identified eagerness to please as one of the top reasons that executives fail.

Keen to innovate faster, employers increasingly choose bosses astute at dealing with conflict rather than ducking it, says Judith Glaser, an executive coach and author of the new book, Conversational Intelligence.

It’s not that firms want contentious leaders, but those who retreat from confrontation tend to postpone hard decisions and allow problems to fester, according to Ms. Glaser.

And with more businesses relying on teamwork, top managers’ conflict-resolution skills are in greater demand, adds Theodore Dysart, a vice chairman of Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., a major executive-recruitment firm.

Southwest Airlines Co. leaders wanted to shake up what they viewed as a culture of artificial harmony among staffers. The company now promotes middle managers to executive positions partly based on their ability to spark conflict among staffers.