Handling Confrontation
as a Leader

Handling confrontation is one of the tough but necessary skills that every successful master.

When I was in graduate school one of my counseling professors claimed that according to Harvard Medical School one of the keys to dealing effectively with stress is directly confronting life’s issues. He then added, "Harvard did not originate this idea – God did!"

There are many scriptures that command us to confront the people and problems of our lives. I have learned that failure to do so will create even greater problems.

...So how do you confront as a leader?

The Bible speaks about handling confrontation: it tells us to do it!

Think about these biblical statements:

He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor that he who flatters.” (Proverbs 28:23)

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

“If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won a brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

“Therefore, laying aside falsehoods speak truth. Each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Ephesians 4:25-27)

“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3)

From my experience as a leader I find that people feel rejected and insignificant if they are not confronted – in love – when they do wrong.  Handling confrontation correctly ministers concern and acceptance to them.

From my study of the life of Jesus I realized he was confrontational. Yet according to John 1:14 "we beheld his glory, fall of grace and truth." The Greek word for "truth" is aletheia, which means "genuineness".

Many people have died spiritually and morally due to a lack of confrontation. I find that especially young leaders are either afraid of handling confrontation or they just don’t know how.

Problems with Handling Confrontation
5 Reasons We Don’t Do It!

1. Fear of Rejection

This is essentially selfish. It shows greater concern for self than for the other. It says: "My feelings are more important to me than this friendship.” As a leader I must care more for the relationship than my "comfort zone".

2. Self-Doubt

Here are common reasons young leaders have given me when the avoid handling confrontation: “I’m too sensitive.” “It’s probably my fault.” “I should love them more.”

I point out that if these things are true these facts will surface in the exchange. I challenge them to care enough to go ahead with the risk!

3. Presumption

If I confront, "they won’t receive it" or "they’ll never change."

I remind my students that we are not responsible for the confrontee's response – only for our own.

4. Delay

You must confront in a timely manner. Paul put it like this: "do not let the sun go down on your anger." Your un-confronted frustrations will come out in other ways.

5. Confidentiality

Inexperienced leaders put off handling confrontation because of concerns over confidentiality. Do not swear to secrecy, but honor confidentiality except in extremes.

When I served as a pastor I took clergy-penitent confidentiality very seriously and respected it at all times. The only exception were in cases in which I had a statutory obligation to report certain matters to the appropriate authorities.

As a Christian leader you must commit to handling anything said in a scriptural, sensitive manner.

I warn young leaders to resist the temptation to hide behind prayer or prophecy. Using prayer or prophecy to hide your fear or lack of obedience is inappropriate. 

Prayer can’t replace confrontation, although it can prepare for it and empower it. When used inappropriately such prayer is “using God’s name in vain.

Recommended Reading: The Conflict Resolution Handbook: Theory and Practice

Learning how to handle confrontation and criticism and how to resolve conflict are essential skills for leaders in every kind of organizational setting. This outstanding resource will help you deepen your understanding of the processes involved in conflicts and your knowledge of how to manage them constructively.

This has been an invaluable resource to me in both my professional and personal life. Yes, it has a relatively price tag, but IT IS WORTH EVERY PENNY!

Return from Handling Confrontation to Biblical Leadership home page.

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