Leadership in Organizational Conflict Resolution


The following paper is a study of the different theories that have been propounded in an attempt to understand the concept of leadership, specifically how good leadership plays a pivotal role in conflict resolution in any workplace. The paper undertakes to examine how different leadership approaches are manifested in the criminal justice system by answering the questions put forth.

Comparison between Fielder’s Original Model of Leadership and the Cognitive Resource Theory

Popularly known as the contingency model, Fielder’s original model of leadership puts forward the argument that for the effectiveness of any leadership style to be made manifest, the situation in which it is applied has to be favorable (Garrison, 2013). For Instance, a chief inspector who is equipped with leading a particular division would be very useful in serving in other positions on the same level. However, the same individual may perform poorly in a lower-level job where the environment is more relaxed and fewer demands are placed on his expertise. Consequently, mixing of leadership styles would require a modification of the situation or do away with that leader altogether because this theory argues that a particular type of leader can only thrive in a specific environment (Garrison, 2013).

In contrast to the model mentioned above, the cognitive resource theory postulates that great leadership is mostly determined by intelligence and experience (Garrison, 2013). Besides, the theory contends that these two factors are best utilized if they are applied to a situation concerning the level of stress that is involved. This theory revolves around the assertion that stress directly affects the relationship between intelligence and the quality of decisions that are made in a particular situation (Robbins, 2011). Technically, this is the assumption that a more intelligent and experienced leader may be able to efficiently resolve a high-stress situation that a leader with lower intelligence has failed at. For example, in a kidnapping case, an experienced leader would be calmer and more efficient because he will be drawing on previous experiences and lessons that he has learned regarding kidnapping cases.

A comparison between these two models, therefore, reveals that the contingency model mainly proposes that leaders perform best when they are matched with subordinates that they are more favorable towards, whereas the cognitive resource model considers intelligence and experience as being central to the determination of a leader’s task orientation.

The type of leader characteristic more suited for high stress or low-stress activities

From the previous discussion, it can be gathered that when it comes to a high-stress situation, then an experienced leader is more favorable to handle the situation. The reason for this conclusion is that experience usually breeds confidence in a leader’s group of followers. As was noted in the kidnapping scenario, both the policemen working alongside him and the family members of the abduction victim would rely more on a leader who has successfully dealt with that kind of situation before as opposed to a highly intelligent one. A more intelligent leader would, however, be highly valuable in highly technical cases. For example, there is a particular type of knowledge and level of intelligence that is required to track the activities of a hacker. This is the reason the task is mostly left to the computer and IT specialists as opposed to entrusting the situation to a more experienced leader as the chief of police. In a low-stress situation, both types of leaders would thrive because these kinds of cases require minimal intelligence and skill.

Transactional, Transformational, and Visionary Leadership

Transactional leaders are task-oriented and are usually focused on directing their groups in particular ways to achieve a set of goals (Martin, Cashel, Wagstaff, & Breunig, 2006). The leaders often use various methods and means to secure the group’s compliance, among them being the appeal to the group’s rational judgment, threats of punishment, or offering them rewards. Transactional leaders rarely identify closely with the group and usually do so only to correct a particular deficiency in the team’s performance (Martin et al., 2006). Therefore, a group is rewarded when it achieves its target, but it is punished in some way when it does not. An example of this would be where a particular police department meets its target of arrests and convictions. The department would probably be more favorably placed to receive more funding and recognition from the state as opposed to a police department that does not meet the target.

Transformational leaders, on their part, are more or less what people have in mind when they think of ideal leadership. These leaders can command a loyal and committed following because they have a strong sense of a mission (Martin et al., 2006). They produce leadership behaviors that give rise to four functions. These are commonly referred to as the four ‘I’s. They are:

  • Idealized vision- This breeds a sense of vision and mission in the people that he is leading and instills in them trust and respect for their leader.
  • Inspirational motivation- Just as the words suggest, this lets the group understand the high expectations that he has in them by breaking down grandiose purposes into simpler forms that can be understood by all.
  • Intellectual stimulation- This proves the leader’s ability to solve problems and surmount challenges using his superior knowledge.
  • Individualized consideration- This is where the leader gets to know the people that make up the group individually to be able to counsel and motivate them.

Transformational leadership is geared towards making the leader’s followers better. An example of this would be where policemen and women are required to be upstanding citizens to serve as role models in the society. In this way, they exemplify the law and order they preserve.

Visionary leaders are insightful and are excited about breaking the mold and achieving what has previously been considered impossible. This type of leader is one who can back his ambitions with elaborate plans of how they are to be achieved. The visionary leader means what they say at all times. They are always finding solutions to age-old problems and focus on doing things in a new way. An example would be where a person who is in charge of a correctional facility realizes that juvenile delinquency is high and tries to find the reasons for ameliorating the situation.

Traditional View, Human Relations View and Interactionist View of Organizational conflict

The traditional view of the organizational conflict, which is the oldest of the three views, provides the simplest and more linear approach towards conflict (Meer, 2013). It postulates that any conflict in an organization is necessarily negative, dangerous, and harmful to the affairs of the organization. The traditional perspective presupposes that all conflict is disruptive and does not differentiate between the different kinds of conflict. For this reason, the theory encourages the avoidance of conflict at all times and aims to root out all causes of conflict. To avoid conflict, the theory suggests legalistic forms of authority and sticking to the books at all times. Moreover, the traditional view identifies significant causes of organizational conflict like bad communication, lack of trust among workers within the organization, misunderstandings, and the lack of the leader’s attentiveness to the needs of his followers.

In contrast, the human relations approach challenges the stance taken by the traditional view on the topic by teaching the acceptance of conflict as a natural part of any organization, which cannot be escaped. Unlike the traditional approach, the human relations view does not readily dismiss conflict as being disruptive and detrimental; instead, it accepts that conflict may be beneficial to some individuals in the organization. Furthermore, the proponents of this view posit that conflict has a salutary effect on the group’s performance and encourages better results. Lastly, the interactionist view of organizational conflict expanded the human relations view of conflict by suggesting that an ever-present, ongoing minimum level of conflict is essential to the growth of the organization. Conflict is perceived as a catalyst for innovations and better adaptation. Without conflict, the activities of the organization would become static, unadoptable, and inflexible. According to this view, therefore, it is necessary to maintain a minimum level of conflict to challenge the group to come up with more creative solutions to problems and to better their performance.

In comparison, therefore, it appears that how conflict is viewed within organizations has been changing over time. More research and analysis that have been carried out on organizational behavior have helped to show that conflict is being regarded more favorably and, in fact, it is encouraged in the contemporary. This is definitely because of the modern teachings that conflict expands the organization’s abilities and forces the people to improve their personal capacities and better their problem-solving skills.

Criminal Justice Agency with Functional Conflict

Functional conflict supports the goals of the group and improves the group’s performance. The conflict helps in breeding analytical thinking within the members of the group because it improves their ability to devise new methods of resolving the conflict. A conflict also promotes the group’s cohesiveness and competition amongst the members. By doing so, conflict challenges the members of a group to improve themselves as each creates new ways of overcoming challenges.

These types of conflict within the criminal justice system often come from external forces. For example, the police department faces a variety of difficulties that challenge them to improve the quality of services that they offer to the public. For example, the systems of promotion are always a source of conflict in any organization. In as much as promotion enables one to climb the professional ladder, it is, nonetheless, considered a source of conflict, particularly when the promotion is highly contested. This type of conflict is, however, functional because it has the overall effect of encouraging better performance in the people who desire to be promoted. As noted, the conflict helps the group members to improve the way they do their work and prompts them to become more creative in their problem-solving techniques. Ideally, promotions are based on merit; therefore, everyone strives to better themselves to acquire this benefit.

Criminal Justice Agency with Dysfunctional Conflict

Dysfunctional conflict is the conflict that is automatically harmful to the organization and obstructs the achievement of the company’s goals. This type of conflict is also usually highly emotive and more often than not has negative repercussions on the activities of the organization. Characteristics of these kinds of conflicts include high employee turnover, dissatisfaction with the organization, distrust, and distraction from the goals of the organization. Conflicts of this type are best avoided where it is possible to do so.

An example of this conflict in the criminal justice department is racial discrimination in the courts. Although the conflict of this nature occurs subtly and rarely, this type of conflict is highly disruptive and has the potential of causing a collapse of the justice system. For instance, a higher rate of conviction for minority races than the majority race inevitably causes friction within the operations of the criminal justice system. It causes the people to lose confidence in the courts and the overall judicial system. This type of conflict is incapable of yielding any positive results and is, therefore, dysfunctional in nature.

In conclusion, the study reveals that not all forms of conflict are necessarily bad. Of course, there are particular types of conflict that ought to be avoided because they are highly disruptive in nature, but there are those conflicts that could be embraced because of the positive changes that they elicit within the organization. The change in the traditional view of conflict has played a significant role in this. It is also worth noting that all progressive-minded organizations do not consider conflict negatively anymore, but they maintain an open mind because they have learned that conflict may improve productivity in the organization. Although this may be true, it is also incumbent on the leaders of the organization to be keen on the types of conflict that they allow in the organization. Conflicts that only serve to cripple the activities of the organization should be rooted out as soon as they occur.


Garrison, T. A. (2013). Perspectives in criminal justice. New York, NY: Page Publishing Inc.

Robbins, J. (2011). Organizational management (14th ed.). Boston, MA: Prentice Hall.

Martin, B., Cashel, C., Wagstaff, M., & Breunig, M. (2006). Outdoor leadership: Theory and practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Meer, H. (2013). 3 different views on organizational conflict. Web.