Conflict in Leadership, Part II

1 05 2010

“ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING”

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”[1]

            The apostle Paul, in writing to the Church at Philippi, knew that there was conflict within the Church specifically between two ladies named Euodia and Syntyche. We are not told the nature of the strife that existed between these two ladies, but only that they needed “to be of the same mind in the Lord.”[2] Whether we are navigating interpersonal conflict or helping others to navigate through theirs it is imperative that we have the mind of Christ. Our having the mind of Christ deals primarily with having the attitude of Christ. In his book The Winning Attitude John Maxwell relates the experience he had of flying in the cockpit of his friend’s plane. He states,

Since I am not a pilot, I decided to turn the pleasure ride into a learning experience. “All those gadgets,” I began, “what do they tell you? I notice you keep looking at that one instrument more than the others. What is it?” “That’s the attitude indicator,” he replied. “How can a plane have an attitude?” “In flying, the attitude of the airplane is what we call the position of the aircraft in relation to the horizon.” By now my curiosity had been aroused, so I asked him to explain more. “When the airplane is climbing,” he said, “it has a nose-high attitude because the nose of the airplane is pointed above the horizon.” “So,” I jumped in, “when the aircraft is diving, you would call that a nose-down attitude.” “That’s right,” my instructor continued. “Pilots are concerned about the attitude of the airplane because that indicates its performance.” “Now I can understand why the attitude indicator is in such a prominent place on the panel,” I replied. Paul, sensing I was an eager student, continued, “Since the performance of the airplane depends on its attitude, it is necessary to change the attitude in order to change the performance.”[3]

 So it can also be said in Christian leadership that attitude is a clear indicator of our performance. Thus Paul exhorts these ladies “to be of the same mind in the Lord” and to “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

            What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? Paul expounds on this in the verses immediately following verse 5 of Philippians 2 when he writes,

…who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[4]

 As one would expect Paul holds up the example of Jesus Christ in demonstrating the mind that every believer needs in order to live successfully in Christ. Note that the presence of the mind of Christ does not mean that conflict will be avoided. The presence of the mind of Christ will serve to help us navigate through the waters of conflict in a way that pleases our Lord. That attitude is quite frankly a servant attitude. It is an attitude of deep humility and therefore requires putting off pride. Pride will always serve to fuel the fires of conflict; whereas humility will always serve to defuse a potential explosion. Christian leadership is above all other things humble leadership. Jesus said to his disciples,

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.[5]

             When dealing with conflict in leadership every party involved should be sure to exhibit the mind of Christ and that mind is a servant attitude. I once counseled a fellow believer going through extreme marital difficulties in which he reported a lot of yelling and screaming back and forth between him and his wife. It is true in all such cases that our fleshly responses in the heat of conflict will always fuel the flesh of the other party and before we know it we have an explosion on our hands. The counsel of James comes in handy in these situations: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”[6] The ability to stop and think in the midst of conflict before allowing the mouth to run over is an invaluable character quality if one is to be effective at handling conflict with a Christ-like attitude.

           Next time we’ll look at 3 key ingredients for any leader who hopes to deal effectively with conflict in a Christ-honoring way.


[1] Philippians 2:5, (NKJV)

[2] Philippians 4:2, (NKJV)

[3] Maxwell, John C. The Winning Attitude. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, 13-14.

[4] Philippians 2:6-11, (NKJV)

[5] Matthew 20:25-28, (NKJV)

[6] James 1:19, (NKJV)


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