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Conflict, Antagonism and Leadership – Part I (notes)

The first in a series of essays and notes based on Leader Killers and Antagonists in the Church by Dr. Kenneth C. Haugk.

Definitions & References

Antagonism, Defined: Hostility that results in active resistance, opposition, or contentiousness.

Antagonism in Chemistry: A phenomenon where two or more agents in combination have an overall effect which is less than the sum of their individual effects.

Antagonism in educational settings, via Time Magazine (Sunday, Feb 13, 2005), Parents Behaving Badly

if the parent-teacher alliance is more important than ever, it is also becoming harder to manage.

Antagonism in business,
Via Executive Agent.com

In companies the Success Formula is often called the business model, and, in functional groups, the operating model.

Lock-ins. As businesses continue pursuing better results, they actually take actions to Lock-in the Success Formula via metrics, processes and operating norms. The purpose of Lock-in is to make sure that decisions don’t veer too far off what previously worked, and focus is maintained on improving performance by enhancing it incrementally. Whether performance improves, or falters due to market-based changes, Lock-in keeps the organization behaving as it did before.

Taking actions which violate the Lock-ins will lead to organizational antagonism, and-even if they produce positive results-considerable problems for your role in the organization.

Organizational Antagonists

Individuals who, on the basis of nonsubstantive evidence, go out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others. Such attacks are selfish in nature, tearing down rather than building up, and frequently directed against those in a leadership capacity (managers, teachers, volunteer leaders).

Broken Down Further:

  1. Nonsubstantive evidence
    • Pettifogging – Quibbling over straws, providing strong proof of irrelevant points
    • Extension – Exaggerating the opponent’s position
    • Argumentum ad ignoratium – making an assertion that cannot be disproved, then claiming that failure to disprove it makes it true.

  2. Go out of their way – Initiating trouble, usually because of hypersensitivity – assuming every word and action is a personal attack requiring an aggressive response
  3. Insatiable demands – Never satisfied, cannot be accommodated. Attempts at appeasement encourages greater demands.
  4. Attacking – Rather than offering constructive criticism, attacks are intended to be destructive and hurtful. The goal is control, regardless of the cost to others and the organization.
  5. Selfish in nature – Self-serving, seizing upon a slogan or picking a side of a valid issue as the ’cause’.
  6. Tearing Down rather than building up: The result is division rather than unity. A divided and strife-torn organization is evidence of one or more antagonists at work

The Three Types

  1. Hard-Core – Cannot listen to reason, seriously disturbed and out of touch with reality. Tenacious individual with a single-minded goal: Disruption/Destruction.
  2. Major – Refuses to listen to reason, insatiable demands, a great deal of hostility coupled with an overwhelming drive for power. Control is always the goal
  3. Moderate – Lacks self-starting qualities and perseverance, but willing to follow the hard-core and major antagonists

Common characteristics of all three types: Malevolent in intent and effect. Unlike activists, who are issue oriented, antagonists are oriented specifically toward people whom they perceive as a barrier to their wants and perceived needs or their control base, resulting in very specific unhealthy conflict.

Nature of Antagonists

  • Antagonists attempt to shift the focus of behaviors to someone other than the individual who first elicited them; e.g. displacement
  • Antagonists tend to attract followers, which creates the environment for escalation.
  • Antagonists make their followers feel important, broadening the base of control which they ultimately seek

Nature of Organizations

Organizations, particularly small businesses and volunteer organizations tend to be fertile environments for antagonists because they are tolerated, and they offer antagonists the attention they crave. The cue that an antagonist has entered an organization, team or small business is often the result obtained — destructive and divisive ends to conflicts.

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