5 Signs of Level Headed Leadership That Resolve Conflict Sooner Than Later

When you are in the midst of conflict, how likely are you to stay level headed?

Meaning, you maintain a calm composure despite the sensation that your heart is about to beat outside of your chest. You’re able to listen with curiosity instead of blurting out what you really want to say and resist the urge to bolt out of the room.

Believe it or not, how we all deal with conflict whether during a low-key difference of opinion or high-stakes decision is influenced by our upbringing.

From what was modeled to us when conversations got tense to challenging circumstances, our work life is an extension of our early family life.

It’s what I call our Workplace Family Factor® addressed in my book How Did My Family Get In My Office?!  

Today’s blog is the final part of a multi-blog series addressing how family upbringing affects your conflict style and business relationships today.

In the first blog, we addressed five common remarks leaders make when avoidance is their go-to conflict style.  

In the second blog, we discussed five signs that control is a leader’s conflict style that contributes to employee turnover.

In the third blog, we looked at five signs you’re a people-pleaser and how it hurts your leadership credibility.

In the fourth blog, we considered five signs using distraction as a go-to conflict style prevents teams from dealing with conflict directly and creating team trust, accountability, and results.

Today we focus on five signs that indicate a leader is able to stay level-headed during times of stress and conflict.

People who can stay level headed are able to stay reasonable and rational even when chaos and unpredictability is swirling around them.

When leading a team, it’s the level headed leader who has a way to defuse tension, provide clear direction, and motivate people to move projects across the finish line.

But how do they do? Especially when people around them have high anxiety and are asking more questions than there are answers.

Read the list below and see if you relate to any of the signs of being a level headed leader, especially during conflict.  

Later you’ll learn how a leader transformed his go-to conflict style of anger to level headed. This leader provides an inspiring example that transforming your conflict style is possible regardless of what was modeled during your upbringing.

Five Signs of level headed leadership

1. Embrace a mindset of humility – Setting ego aside, level headed leaders are open to learning from others.  

You are focused on doing what’s best for your employees and the company mission and giving credit where credit is due when others succeed.

2. Convey a tone of friendliness and warmth – Sincerity, integrity, and honesty are what drive level headed leader’s behavior.

Your body language, words, and actions are consistent. You take a genuine interest in others and their success.

3. Speak directly – Level headed leaders are clear and direct, and even-keeled in your delivery.

You are willing to ask questions or raise issues that may cause conflict when it’s necessary for team success.  

You aren’t afraid to address a bully coworker or an abrasive person in your workplace. You address gossip and other disruptive behaviors that lead to a toxic workplace and set the example of healthy behaviors.

4. Blameless conflict management – You focus on solutions instead of who’s to blame. You emphasize learning and getting smarter from every mistake.

Level headed leaders take responsibility for their actions. You have the emotional intelligence skills to pull on your inner resources in times of strife or challenge.

You expect others to also take responsibility for their actions.

5. Apologize – When you realize you did something you didn’t intend, you take ownership, apologize, make it right, and move on.

Level headed leaders are willing to be vulnerable. You admit when you’re wrong or when you don’t have the answers.

You view vulnerability as the foundation of trusting relationships and healthy teams.

Example: A Level headed Leader

In my book How Did My Family Get In My Office?!, leaders share their stories of how they transformed their conflict styles from what was modeled to them growing up.  

With vulnerability and transparency each leader shared their turning point of self-awareness and the conscious choices they made going forward to improve how they handled conflict as a leader.

Mike’s story is about his courage to break the anger cycle in order to create better relationships at home and in the workplace.

Mike grew up in what he described as an authoritarian household. His dad was in the military and was always in charge, often giving orders to Mike and his siblings instead of asking questions.

To the opposite extreme, Mike described his mom as very compliant and “went along to get along”. She avoided conflict at all costs.

In response to dad’s anger, there were two ways to respond – get angry in return or stay quiet to avoid the wrath.

As a kid, Mike tended to avoid conflict like his mom. He adopted the mindset that “things will work out on their own.” Other times, he would try to ease the family tension by being over-accommodating just to keep the peace.

Fast forward as an adult and leader, Mike adopted the angry behavior modeled by his father.

Reacting to conflict with anger proved ineffective until three distinct incidents occurred that became what Mike described as his “wake-up call” to the fact that there was a much easier, more caring, and less stressful way to address conflict.

These three incidents brought to light the extent of Mike’s anger that was often out of proportion to the incident.

He realized when something didn’t go as planned, his immediate reaction was anger and yelling that left those around him hurt, sad, and quiet to avoid his wrath. Just like he had felt as a kid when his father got angry.

From that point on, Mike made a clear, conscious decision to choose to respond differently to conflict and break the anger cycle. He took the lessons from the three incidents into his personal life and the office.

When asked how he was able to break the anger cycle and handle conflict with a level head, Mike responded there were several things he did to gain self-awareness – from counseling to relying on his faith.

He also attributed reading one book in particular that was very instrumental to him. Mike said

“From reading the book Homecoming Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Childby John Bradshaw, I was convinced that regardless of what happened in my upbringing, I could break the cycle of conflict avoidance and anger. Each day I strive to be a little better than the day before. Reading helps me apply better behaviors and reaffirms that I can change just as others have changed as told in the stories I read.”

What’s next for you?

Being leveled doesn’t happen by chance. It requires intentionality to choose behaviors that even in the most challenging of situations foster a positive work culture.

As this blog series is wrapped up, maybe it’s time for you to consider your conflict pattern.

Maybe it’s time for you to consider how you can be more “level-headed” when differences arise or the unexpected happens, and say “I’m not going to rush into my usual way of reacting and instead be more conscious of my response.”

Make the Conscious Choice to be a leader who manages conflict with a level head

Ready to find out how your family upbringing impacts your conflict style?  

Take my complimentary Workplace Family Factor® Assessment and learn how self-awareness of your family upbringing will equip you to improve how you handle conflict at work.


About the author 

Bonnie Artman Fox, MS, LMFT works with executive leaders who want to gain self-awareness about the impact of their words and actions and up-level their interpersonal skills. 

Drawing from decades as a psychiatric nurse and licensed family therapist, Bonnie brings a unique perspective to equip executive leaders with the roadmap to emotional intelligence that brings teams together. 

Bonnie’s leadership Turnaround coaching program has an 82% success rate in guiding leaders to replace abrasive behavior with tact, empathy, and consideration of others. The end result is a happy, healthy, and profitable workplace…sooner vs. later.