Are you a crow or an eagle?


Deutsch: Fänge eines Riesenseeadlers (Haliaeet...
Image via Wikipedia

Conflict in organizational change is a common happening. Its unavoidable, and its healthy when handled professionally. Recall from your experiences times when the conflict is brought to your desk or office. What was your reaction? What did your reaction say about you? How you deal with conflict is one of the most significant characteristics you demonstrate as a leader.

Consider the case of the crow and the eagle. The crow is a smaller bird with significant maneuverability. The eagle is a large bird with great physical strength.

The crow brings conflict to many in the world, certainly farmers and for the purposes of this discussion / analogy, eagles as well. How does the eagle react? It could use its greater strength to confront the crow and engage in the conflict. It could attempt to use its talons to crush the crow much like it does to catch fish from a river. Both of these are certainly viable methods of dealing with conflict, and they both communicate a demeanor about the eagle.

One other way the eagle can deal with the conflict is to rise above it. Due to this same physical strength, eagles have been spotted flying much higher in the air than a crow. Rising above the conflict, to an altitude where the crow cannot fly is an interesting method of dealing with the conflict. And it communicates a different demeanor than the direct aggressive frontal attack.

So, how do you deal with conflict? Are you the crow, bringing conflict into the situation or are you the eagle? As the eagle, do you engage your talons or your wings to soar over the conflict?

There are always times to use your talons to engage and times to use your wings to soar over the conflict. Knowing when and where to do either is a key to your success in dealing with conflict.

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5 thoughts on “Are you a crow or an eagle?

  1. I appreciate the approach and would like to understand more about determining when it is the right time to address the conflict and to what level. I agree it’s best to exercise restraint and not approach every conflict aggresively with talons out but what happens when one soars above a conflict they should’ve addressed and nip it in the bud before it’s a worse scenario?

    Thanks Joe!

    • Chris – Your comment suggests that soaring above is in effect, ignoring the issue. Certainly, ignoring the issue has many different possible results. Have you ever heard of MBDN or management by doing nothing? There are times when this might be an appropriate approach. But this is not what I mean by soaring above.

      The spirit of “soaring above” can take the form of many actions, like taking a debate offline to be conducted in a one-on-one fashion, or seeing the opposition’s position and raising them to a greater challenge.

      I read a book by Mark McCormack a while ago and learned a great quote. “Never wrestle with a pig. Only the pig enjoys it, and the best that can happen is you get muddy.”

      • Love the quote! I have not heard of management by doing nothing but will look into it – sounds interesting.

        Thanks for the response and the quote – I’ll check out McCormack too.

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