Grace Under Fire

Oct. 14, 2016
Great leaders and real solutions are forged in the fires of conflict.

One of my favorite times of year when I was a newspaper reporter was budget season.

No, seriously. Stop laughing.

For days at a crack, I’d spend upwards of 10 hours a day in a cramped, drab gray government office, listening to an oversight committee rake over administrators about what they wanted to spend next year. Not a single dime was left unturned, no matter how irrational the concern seem.

A lot of airport managers reading this right now know what I’m talking about. Going hat-in-hand to a committee to get your budget approved for next year only to spend 30 minutes answering questions on why you plan to spend money on name brand Post-It notes for office staff is just a fact of life for you.

And if you’re in the north, I bet you’ve been told at least once in your career to cut the thermostat by two degrees in the winter and inform employees to just invest in some thicker sweaters.

As an outsider it was entertaining. Talking to insiders, it was annoying. All the irrational questions and demands really took away valuable time spent on day-to-day operations.

But one thing I learned was it made a lot of them better at their job. Some have told me over the years about how it made them rethink how they do their duties and plan. Not in just a financial sense either.
Conflict can be quite constructive and solve a lot of issues. Conflict with the TSA wait times forced people to find solutions.

Most people don’t want conflict in the workplace, but it still happens. While you can’t control conflict brought on, you can control how you handle it and how you adjust going forward.

When you look at the stories in Airport Business each issue, notice each of them has an issue that started with a conflict and sometimes encountered it along the way. What makes these stories valuable is they show what airports, consultants and leaders did to grow and what made them industry leaders.

Great leaders don’t create conflict — they create real solutions to get through it. So next time you find yourself facing another big challenge, just smile to yourself and think creatively.

Otherwise you’ll find yourself at the other end of the table making others better while you make yourself weaker.