Episode 134: 7 Ways to Confidently Handle Conflict

October 17, 2022


Most people, by nature, want to avoid conflict, but unfortunately it’s a guaranteed part of running a business and being a leader. 

So today, we’re talking about different ways to handle conflict with a level of confidence where you don’t feel like you have to melt into a puddle and slink away because it’s going to be too painful or uncomfortable. In today’s episode, you’ll hear some of the tried and true strategies that you can bring into your team, to your clients, into your work and your family, to handle conflict as a confident leader.


[2:13] Conflict Is an Opportunity to Grow 

When you’re leading others, whether it’s in your business or in your home, you are destined for moments of conflict. Sometimes conflict carries such a heaviness to it. But really, it’s an opportunity for growth, it’s a chance to learn and to get better. 

Today, I’m going to share some critical and not always talked about strategies to consider when you’re coming into a hot topic or a sticky situation. Today I’m sharing with you seven things you want to do when you are handling conflict, so that you can start handling conflict as a confident leader instead of someone who just has to handle conflict because it’s on their plate.

[4:07] Know Your Values 

The first one is the most important piece, and you hear me talk about it all the time, and that is to know your values and set clear standards as a benchmark. Whether in your home with your kids or with your team members, it is up to you as the leader to set really clear expectations and standards by which you all operate. Those should be rooted in the values that you’ve chosen to live by as a company or as a family. This is work that a lot of leaders try to skip or they assume that everyone’s on the same page. So, make sure that everybody knows the direction that you’re going in or what your expectations are. 

For example, as a company we have a strong value of leading with love. We live by the golden rule that money is not our main driver; treating other people the way we want to be treated is. This not only serves our mission and our clients, but it also ultimately leads to more business. And it has served our souls in the process, which is a really important piece of the puzzle for me, my team members and my family. 

Knowing those values is important, because you will avoid a lot of conflict if you have these intact. When you’re trying to operate without those benchmarks or without that North Star, you’re going to run into far more situations where you’re having to pick up the pieces after the fact, which is always more challenging than dodging the bullet initially. So, if you feel a little unclear about this and you keep running into the same patterns and situations that are stressing you out, I have a tool that’s going to help you get laser focused on this. At you can download our free guide that’s going to help you identify those values, get ultimate clarity and laser focus on who you are, what you’re called to do and it’s going to make dealing with conflict so much easier for you. 

[9:41] Be a Buffalo Leader 

The second thing that you need to do to be a confident leader handling conflict that’s ahead of you is – address it head on. The big mistake I see leaders make is avoiding the conflict. They push it off, they hope it will pass or just get better on its own. This is a perpetuating pattern. This is giving permission and acceptance to that behavior that doesn’t align with the values you have, or where you’re going. You have to nip it in the bud and you have to do it early and often, because toxicity festers and it spreads and it will affect other members of the team and elongate the amount of time that you have to suffer. 

I’ve told this story before, but I’m going to tell it again, because it’s really so poignant for this particular step in the process: the difference between cattle and buffalo. When there’s a giant storm, the cattle start to run away from the storm. But what they’re ultimately doing is running with the storm and this expands the amount of time that those cattle have to suffer in the storm. But the buffalo on the other hand, face the storm and run into it. And because they’re running towards it and the storm is going through them, they are shortening the length of time that they have to be in that storm. That is the type of leader you want to be, you want to be a buffalo leader. You want to run into the storm, you want to face it, you want to navigate it, you want it to be as quick and swift as it can be. You don’t want to disillusion yourself into thinking that you’re actually avoiding it when you’re really just stretching the amount of time that you have to be in it. 

[12:26] Go In with the Truth 

The third thing you want to do is prepare and get the facts. Assumptions as a whole weaken your footing as a leader and they also eliminate trust, they take you further and further from truth because your mind will play some serious tricks on you. 

Usually in a conflict, emotions are, generally speaking, running kind of high so our tendency is to start filling in the gaps in our minds with the assumptions that we have or assumptions of others or gossip that’s happening around this particular thing. So instead, get the facts, prepare before the conversation, prepare the right questions, talk to the right people, get the facts from the source, get a better understanding of the situation as a whole. Don’t go in with assumptions. Don’t go in with gossip and rumors. Go in with the truth as much as you possibly can, and then get the remaining truth in the actual conversation itself. When you come into it prepared and you actually understand and get the proper information, you can make the proper choices.

[14:54]  Seek Wisdom and Buy, Don’t Sell 

The fourth suggestion I have is to seek wisdom. Once you get the knowledge and the facts, it’s time for wisdom.

As a leader, you’re going to be presented with a lot of choices and tough decisions. The facts can take you so far, but wisdom will take you over the hump. So depending on the level of the conflict, it might be smart to call in the wisdom of others who have walked through it. The best tip I can give here is to choose people who share your values, otherwise, you’ll be guided by their values that might not align with yours and might not take you to the end result you want to achieve. So, choose the right people. I have my dream team of people that I trust: my mother, my uncle, my husband, other mentors who have lifted me up over the years. All of them can offer a calming voice or a suggestion or a story of how they’ve walked through it or wisdom based on having experienced something similar, or a perspective that I just can’t yet possess, because I’m still in the mess of it. So, lean into those people in your life when you need some guidance. 

Number five is one of my mother’s favorite lines: Buy, don’t sell. So what does she mean by this? She means – shut your trap. Listen, let them talk. Don’t try to sell them on what you’re thinking, instead, sit and listen. Because sometimes they’re going to shed light on what’s really going on and you’re going to get more truth from it that’s going to allow you to make a more confident decision as a leader. 

[17:56]  Be Human and Always Do the Right Thing

Number six is – be human, but have a direct leadership path forward. You should have empathy, a good leader has empathy but it doesn’t take away from their directness and their leadership. You can be human, you can hear someone’s struggle and you can offer support without making a choice that perpetuates the problem or accepts the behavior that puts your company in harm’s way. So, it’s a beautiful balance of the two: of being human and having empathy, but still remaining a leader who is true to their values. A big part of leadership is the leadership growth of your people. So, sometimes you see something in them that they’re not living up to and it’s a conflict to call them out. It’s uncomfortable, but you’d be doing a disservice to them if you didn’t. You can have that humanity while still being very direct and very clear about your expectations and your standards, and what the path forward will look like. 

The final one is to do the right thing. Doing the right thing often means doing the tough thing. Sometimes that is forgiving. Sometimes that’s taking ownership of your poor leadership that led to the problem or that allowed the problem to continue. Sometimes that’s letting someone go. Sometimes that’s investing more of your time and energy into that person, because you hadn’t previously and it led to this conflict. Always do the right thing because that’s the thing that keeps respect, dignity and possibility intact.

I hope today’s episode helps you navigate the conflicts that you face as a confident leader. Because if you were willing to navigate conflict and come to the table as the confident leader you’re called to be, there’s more possibility available to you and more potential you can access.

And if this episode spoke to you, make sure to subscribe and leave us a review! Come connect with me on Instagram at @elizhartke! If there’s a topic, a question or a guest you want to hear on the show, just reach out and share that. We do this for you so the more you tell us, the more we can serve.


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