How Conflict & Adversity Can Detract from Your Leader Voice

26 Jan How Conflict & Adversity Can Detract from Your Leader Voice

Part 3 of Featured Blog Series: Improving Your Leader Voice”

How Conflict & Adversity Can Detract from Your Leader Voice

Under conflict and pressure your normal strengths in communication may disappear, overtaken by an ineffective coping response.  Despite your best intentions, the more emotionally reactive you become when facing adversity, the more your ability to interact can suffer.  We all have natural risk factors that can impede our success, particularly when it comes to effective communications and relationships.  When your buttons are pushed, do you:

  • Move Away – detach, work behind the walls of your office, go silent, hold back, isolate, or just spiral into your own deep thinking?
  • Move Towards – seek to smooth things over, become overly ingratiating, help to a fault, become a “yes” person, take on too much yourself to make things better, or become unwilling to rock the boat or to challenge others?
  • Move Against – become aggressive, pushy, stubborn, intimidating, loud, control airtime, use a “my-way or the highway” approach, or fight hard to win the day?

You may have one, two or even three of the above ineffective coping strategies depending on:

  • what the stimuli is that sets you off and
  • who is pushing your buttons (boss, spouse, direct report, client, etc.)

Understanding Those Who Commonly “Move Away” 

Leaders and professionals who tend to be more technically and financially inclined usually suffer most with the “Moving Away” tendencies. They clam up when things get tough. They, in essence, fade into the wallpaper and hold back rather than injecting needed commentary and views. They close their doors, seek solitude, and often dig in and work harder. They study and seek privacy versus jumping into a passionate dialogue or debate. 

The performance problems that result are that teams with moving away traits do not openly discuss the difficult issues or challenges together in order to come to the best solutions. Issues often remain avoided and unclear.  Everyone stays inside their own heads. This stress reaction of isolating oneself solidifies the silos and separations that already likely exist. Imagine how these organizations could thrive and push forward more quickly if key leaders and teams stayed at the table to discuss the challenging issues and opportunities more openly.

Hiring a skilled “facilitator” can be an essential remedy for the moving away leadership or professional team. A competent facilitator can help team members come out of their closed-door comfort zones to engage in a healthy and productive way with each other. Over time, team members will gain more comfort in expressing themselves. They can adopt a meeting process that intentionally compels open dialogue. Leaders with this risk trend of moving away can benefit immensely from having an executive coach help them with techniques on an individual basis to turn this ineffective coping strategy around.  

How Moving Towards Can Be Self-Defeating

Leaders who “Move Towards” and seek affection to smooth things over, often lose the respect of others. They are frequently viewed as gutless, or as those who won’t stand up and fight for others, particularly when it comes to their direct reports. They may get bypassed for promotions because of being too ingratiating or agreeable.  They help to a fault at times. They are the ones who often struggle with too much work.  They suffer because they cannot get the “no” word passed their lips. Adding salt into their self-inflicted wounds, they are the constant volunteer despite knowing they have no time to spare. The moving towards Risks measured by the CDR Risk Assessment are:  Pleasers and Perfectionists.  

Fundamentally, moving towards people suffer from wanting to be “good boys or good girls” meaning they grew up being overly helpful and trying to be perfect. They want to please everyone.  In their minds they hope that if they only dig in and do more and do a perfect job, conflict and dissatisfaction will disappear.  They especially want to satisfy and dote on authority figures.

From my 20 plus years of executive coaching, the “moving towards” coping response is probably the most difficult and career debilitating coping strategy for leaders.  

However, it is not hurtful or too damaging to those in certain professional roles such as:  executive assistants, dental assistants, nurses’ aides, appointment schedulers, teacher’s aids, tour guides, and similar occupations. Accountants, analysts, nurses, teachers, professors, reservations clerks, and others may have some of this as well and still have solid performance, but they may need to manage these traits so that they do not go too far to interfere with their effectiveness.

Developmental suggestions for the moving towards profile:  As a start, hire an objective, candid and a very patient executive coach who uses appropriate diagnostic assessments.  Then, assertiveness training tops the list for the Pleaser.  

The Perfectionist, which is often part of the moving towards package, needs to back off of their compulsive needs for control, order, and to impose their personal standards. Frequently, Perfectionists, gone to the extreme, may have deeper-rooted issues of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) for which therapy could be in order.  Getting a Perfectionist leader to pull back, relax and look beyond the nagging details is a tall order and a steep challenge for even the most experienced coaches.  

I now encourage Perfectionists to find those executive coaches who have been successful in managing their own perfectionistic tendencies and to learn from them.  From my coaching perspective, this is a daunting Risk factor to coach with success because of the perfectionist’s inherent compulsion and hard wiring to get it right to the nth degree.  Having them loosen up is contrary to their comfort zone and natural approach, so it is usually a longer-term developmental commitment.  That is where the patient and persistent executive coach can help.

Developing the Moving Against Leader

Many books have been written on coaching and developing leaders who have a moving against profile.  These are the bullies, narcissists, loud mouths, pushy, overly aggressive, stubborn, argumentative, negative, weirdos and intimidating types.  This is very common in leadership because roughly 70% of leaders today have some level of propensity for the Egotist risk.  You may want to refer to my earlier blogs titled,

Can You Train Arrogance Out of Your Organization?

Coaching the Egotist Executive

The moving against profile is that individual who jumps to the fighting and argumentative mode when his or her buttons are pushed.  Being raised as a Philadelphia Eagles Fan and as the daughter of a Union leader, this is my natural mode when the heat is on.  It has taken many years of work to make reasonable headway in containing my “passion.” (I refer to it as “passion” to conveniently masque the negative aspects.)   

Leaders and professionals who move against are served best by hiring an executive coach who will be in-their-face assertive, confident and comfortable holding a mirror to the client’s behaviors and impact.  Learning how to control the emotions, slowing down reactions, and finding tactful and appropriate ways to express dissent are all important developmental avenues for the moving against individual.  Accountability for behaviors within organizations is most important for this type of behavior. It is not acceptable or okay to intimidate or excoriate team members or direct reports.  Despite passion levels, showing respect for all is non-negotiable.


It is recommended that you explore the nuances of your strengths and risks when it comes to your Leader Voice. The best way start to accelerate the process is by working with a skilled executive coach who uses a valid, in-depth personality assessment (like the CDR 3-D Suite) that dives deep into both strengths and risks.  With the right assessment and the right coach, you can roll up your sleeves and get to work quickly focusing on what matters the most for your success.  

Hone in on your strengths first and foremost.  Find ways to build on those natural communications skills and capabilities.  Get feedback, practice, and find ways to improve your messaging, active listening, and clarity.  Then, identify what triggers your negative coping responses, or Risks, so that you can prevent these behaviors from manifesting in the first place.  The first step to improving is having a clear understanding of what behaviors interfere with your effectiveness, particularly when facing adversity.

Your Leader Voice speaks volumes.  Make sure that the messaging is what you want it to be.

You are welcome to contact us about other resources in developing the Moving Against, Moving Towards, or Moving Away coping strategies at


Read Part 1: “The 8 Nuances of an Effective Leader Voice”  

Read Part 2:   “Improving Your Leader Voice” Sample ACTION PLANS to improve Your Leader Voice”


*Karen Horney (1885 – 1952) developed the “Inneffective Coping Strategies” (compliance, aggression, detachment) 

Go here for recommended reading:  “Our Inner Conflicts: A Constructive Theory of Neurosis” by Karen Horney sold by Amazon.


*PLEASE NOTE: this three-part LEADER VOICE article examines “communications” approach only and does not explore not relationship building or empathy, compassion, nurturing tendencies in this piece. 

Nancy Parsons is the CEO/President and Co-Founder of CDR Assessment Group, Inc.based in
Sugar Land, TX. CDR provides unmatched assessments and consulting/coaching services for
leadership development and talent management for global clients. CDR was founded in 1998 in
Tulsa, OK and has been a WBENC certified corporation since 2000 (WBEA affiliated). Nancy is also a member of The Alexcel Group, an international alliance of highly experienced consultants
and executive coaches supplying the very best expertise in talent development.

For more information on this topic, including addition interview questions and resources
available on this Risk and about the CDR Leadership Risk Assessment, please contact us at or call 281-207-5470 or 918-600-5728.

The additional 10 Leadership Risk Factors we measure include: Worrier, Cynic, Perfectionist,
Rule Breaker, Upstager, Egotist, Pleaser, Hyper Moody, Detached and Eccentric.

 ©2016, CDR Assessment Group, Inc., Sugar Land, TX 77479. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright owner.