What is Conflict-confident Leadership™ and why is it an essential leadership capability?

By Alice Driscoll

Aug 30, 2021

Understand what is meant by conflict-confident leadership and why all leaders driving transformation need to demonstrate it

As a coach working with leaders, I am on a mission to buildup conflict-confident leaders.  

Here’s why.

The leaders I support are usually on the cusp of, or deep in the middle of guiding their organisations through transformational change.  Sometimes by design, to realise an opportunity, and sometimes by necessity to survive shifting ground.  

In VUCA environments (also known as WTF is going on environments e.g. a global pandemic) there are really no leaders who are not driving a change agenda – either to survive or to thrive (often both!).

Whatever the change agenda, I believe that transformation or change is predicated by our ability to withstand, navigate and value conflict with our colleagues.  Innovation and progress is born out of the conflict of ideas and challenging the status quo.  But re-framing conflict is hard and anti-intuitive for most of us.  It takes a conflict confident leader to foster the right organisational culture around conflict (and as with all cultural change), the role-modelling of the behaviours we want to see in others.

First, we need to define what kind of conflict we need to get confident with.  Not all conflict is good.  We want to maximise the amount of time we spend in constructive conflict, and minimise (or ideally eradicate) anytime spent in toxic conflict. Constructive conflict is the conflict of our ideas, feelings and opinions in relation to a task, approached with curiosity, openness, and collaboration, with the understanding that you are trying to get the most effective solution or way forward. It still often feels challenging but if we can push through the discomfort, we get a greater perspective and the chance to make our ideas more ambitious and more likely to be successfully realised. Destructive (toxic) conflict is often personal and relational, aggressive and inflexible, it rejects diverse perspectives and feels overwhelming.  It’s not just bad for our wellbeing, it’s also really bad for business as it is more than unproductive, its damaging.  

There’s a third kind of conflict that doesn’t serve our organisations – no-conflict, conflict (avoidant).  With this approach, ideas will go unchallenged, opportunities will be missed, and flaws in plans will go unnoticed.  

Three approaches to conflict model by Alice Driscoll Coaching

A conflict-confident leader is one that maximises the time they and their teams spend in constructive conflict because they know this is essential for productivity.   My conflict-confident leadership™ programme goes into depth on how to develop six essential elements that unlock conflict-confidence;


  1. Conflict-confident TRAITS
  2. Conflict-confident BELIEFS
  3. Conflict-confident SKILLS
  4. Conflict-confident BEHAVIOURS
  5. Conflict-confident PROCESSES
  6. Conflict-confident ASSETS


If you want to find out more about how I support in becoming more conflict confident through my coaching programmes, contact me here:  alice@alicedriscoll.co

Resources on this topic

Harvard Business Review:
Why We Should Be Disagreeing More at Work

Conflicted: Why Arguments Are Tearing Us Apart and How They Can Bring Us Together by Ian Leslie