Leadership of the 20th century originates in a set of values, practices, and beliefs that are becoming less and less relevant to the new generation of workers and consumers (Rost & Barker, 2000; Hetzler & Speth, 2008). From a construct that was once focused on individual power and influence over others, leadership has been reconstructed as a process of interactions between interdependent individuals towards the achievement of goals (Rost & Barker, 2000). Leadership of the 21st century is informed by organizational systems theory, institutional theory, social complexity, and emergence to ground all individual activity over time within a system of interdependent elements bound by a common environment (Rost & Barker, 2000, Thoroughgood, Sawyer, Padilla, Lunsford, 2018; Aula & Siira, 2010; Vilas-Boas, Davel, Bispo, 2018), i.e. the organization. To understand the leadership process, it is helpful for owners, executives, and managers to understand their company as a recursive system of social complexity (Houchin & Maclean, 2005).
Gelfand, Leslie, Keller, & de Dreu (2012) found empirical evidence that supports the existence of three distinct conflict-cultures at the organization-level: collaborative, dominating, and avoidant. These three cultures positively related with the conflict management style of the manager. Collaborative conflict-cultures were seen with managers who cooperate with others to understand shared interests. Dominating conflict-cultures were seen with competitive leaders who use power to coerce others into supporting their position. Avoidant conflict-cultures were seen with leaders who sought to avoid any difficult conversation or situation altogether. They found a negative correlation between collaborative conflict-cultures and individual-level burnout, dominant conflict-cultures and organization-level cohesion, and avoidant conflict-cultures and group-level creativity. Subsequent analysis shows that job satisfaction ratings are impacted by these same conflict-cultures (Choi, 2019) that emerge from individual-level communicative interactions bound within an organization-level context.
From leadership process and communicative constitution perspectives, these findings uncover a need to have stable and structured conflict communication and resolution processes in place that follow a particular conflict-management ideal. If the goal is a collaborative conflict-culture, then leaders must be trained on cooperative conflict-communication and interest-based negotiation (Gelfand, Leslie, Keller, and De Dreu, 2012; Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2011), and the company must be integrated along an organization-level conflict management system of collaboration that is obvious, available, and comfortable to use for every employee (Hetzler & Speth, 2008). Such a system is known as an Integrative Conflict Management System (ICMS), that actively and consistently works to guide the engagement and resolution of conflict throughout the organizational system at the earliest possible stage with or without formal or legal involvement (Spidr, 2001).
The emergence of culture can theoretically be influenced by a leadership process that involves owners, executives, and managers who not only understand how they and the organization are perceived by their followers, but also how they themselves perceive the organization and their followers. They must also actively engage themselves and others in a spontaneous arena to negotiate congruence of meaning between and within the levels of their company. It is also important for upper-management to understand the circumstances created by the way the work impacts the employees in order to anticipate and/or recognize areas of conflict before they get out of hand.