Development: Conflict Management for College Student Leaders
Judy Rashid, Ed.D
is a pervasive part of group and organizational culture (Fasnacht, 1990) and unmanaged
group conflict can be very chaotic (Kormanski, 1982). At the same time, the absence
of conflict indicates or results in apathy. Therefore, the goal of groups should
not necessarily be to avoid conflict, but to use conflict as a means of creating
a more positive group atmosphere (Hungenberg & Moyer, 1996). Increasing the
acceptance and management of group conflict, however, requires effective leadership
to increase as well (Kormanski, 1982). As a result, conflict and leadership are
inseparable (Burns, 1978).
leadership functions determine whether or not a group will work together, accept
improvements, and try to develop better ways of doing a job. Knowledge of conflict
management skills is very vital to those in leadership roles (Fasnacht, 1990)
and is an "integral part of leadership effectiveness" (Korabik, Baril,
& Watson, 1993, p. 406). Despite the growing industry of conflict management
training, little research and theorizing has been done in this area (Deutsch,
1994), in particular on the impact of skilled leaders on the group participants'
conflict management style. The study described below provides a step in this direction.
It examines the effectiveness of conflict management skills intervention training
on the conflict management style of college student organizational presidents,
key leaders within the larger campus community.
The Problem and Its Background
college student organizations have been seen as falling within the educational
mission of colleges and universities (Schmitz, 1997) and particularly within student
leadership development (Komives, 1994). More specifically student organizations
have been viewed as "learning laboratories" (Street, 1997). Student
organizations offer many opportunities for students including the chance to develop
meaningful relationships, to pursue special interests, to clarify a sense of purpose
and identity, and to develop interpersonal, leadership, organization, and social
skills (Street, 1997). On the other hand, there are many variables at play within
student organizations that influence individual and group behavior. Schmitz (1997)
applied organizational behavior theory to college student organizations, depicting
the student as the core of the group, surrounded and influenced by task, technology,
structure, leadership, and culture all within the university environment. Conflict
is caused by the constant interplay of these variables. Franck (1983) reported
that research conducted at the student activities divisions of three midwestern
colleges indicated that the three major conditions that promote conflict in student
organizations are role conflict, interdependence and scarcity of resources. These
findings indicate the potential for constant conflict in student organizations.
Certain leadership skills are thus demanded of any leader in charge
of a group (Maier, N.R.F., Solem, A.R., & Maier, A.A., 1975; Coyne, R.K.,
Harvill, R.L., Morganett, R.S., Morran, D.K., & Hulse-Killacky, D., 1990),
and it is the job of educators to equip students of all ages with the relevant
skills needed. These skills may also be key to their success in a rapidly changing
society. In presenting their research on views of effective group leadership,
Conyne et al., 1990, reported that experts in the fields of group counseling,
training, research and practice responded similarly in urging more group leader
training. Conyne and others also reported that leadership training with groups
is often directed to group process and less to the mechanics of group leader skills,
which address what leaders do. On the college campus, for example, there seems
to be a general assumption that student leaders of campus organizations are automatically
effective leaders that are
prepared, knowledgeable about self, and are able to create therapeutic climates,
intervene critically and to successfully apply 'problem-solving processes'"
(Conyne et al., 1991, p.34).
may very well be an expectation of group leaders but it cannot be left to chance
by student affairs professionals that are engaged in student leadership development.
Without proper training, many students are unable to effectively assume leadership
responsibilities (Lamoureaux, 1984). These
energized students are quickly 'burned out' by unrealistic demands they place
upon themselves and by the frustrations that develop as a result of the absence
of a systematic approach to solving their organizational problems" (Duvall
and Ender, 1980, p.145).
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo
to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
send comments, bug reports, etc. to the Editor.
© 2000-2005 William C. Warters & WSU,
All rights reserved.