When I was in third grade, I begged my parents to let me take piano lessons. After months of unrelenting pleas, I began taking lessons from our church pianist. Because purchasing a piano was a big investment, I spent the first year walking to our nearby church so I could practice. I had a key to the small church and I often found myself alone in the sanctuary learning how to play simple melodies.
As I advanced through the years, I continued to learn music theory and more difficult pieces. I still own the piano that my parents purchased so I could develop my skills and I even contemplated majoring in piano when I left for college.
Learning the piano taught me a lot about handling conflict as a leader. The simple principles of playing beautiful music isn’t about all of us playing the same note at the same time, but creating chords in the same key that produce pleasing and desirable results. The apostle Paul speaks often in the Book of Romans about living at peace with one another—not because we all have the same opinion, but because our harmony and unity will be a magnet to unbelievers.
Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” and Romans 15:5 says, “Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus.” Harmony comes when everyone strives to work together for one singular purpose—taking the gospel to a world in conflict and brokenness.
If you’re a leader who desires to create a team or culture of harmony, here are three things to consider.
First, pray for harmony. Jesus did. When you consider John 17, Jesus prays for unity. He doesn’t pray that the believers would all think the same way, but He does pray for unity. Verse 23 says, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” As a leader, are you praying for harmony and unity—the state of being united or combined into one direction? If you are struggling with conflict—whether it is one-on-one or as a team, commit to pray for harmony. Examine your motives and whether you have been part of creating conflict. Reach out to those in conflict and commit to bring reconciliation to relationships.
Second, pursue harmony. In other words, don’t hide from conflict, but face it in a biblical manner. For many leaders, it’s easier to ignore tension than to face it. Personally, I’m not fond of conflict, yet I’ve seen the ugly affects of not pursuing peace and unity. Instead of living in one accord, we live in discord. In music, we call this dissonance. A definition of dissonance is “a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion.” Composers use dissonance to interrupt the harmony and some will finish a piece of music with the use of dissonance as a special effect. Yet, each time dissonance is used in music, it begs for completion or harmony. I would much rather hear music that uses dissonance in one chord, but resolves into the same key shortly after.
I think leadership should be like this. We don’t ignore times when conflict arises, but we pursue ways to bring harmony back to the relationship. Again, Paul addresses this in Romans 14:19, when he says, “So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” Paul didn’t live without conflict. We know that he and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement in regard to John Mark, but we discover later that Paul reconciled the relationship and God was glorified in spreading the gospel to another part of the world.
Finally, practice harmony. I did not develop my piano skills by reading a book on how to play the piano. I did not become proficient in difficult pieces by only playing the melody. Instead, I learned that if I was going to become a skillful pianist, practice wasn’t an option—it was a necessity. Hours upon hours of practice, dissecting notes, rhythms, and the help of a trusted teacher, helped me become a better pianist. As a leader, harmony won’t always come naturally. You’ll need to practice the skill. You’ll need to develop good habits of building trusting relationships, working toward making peace with others, and you’ll need the help of a trusted mentor who can guide you through the tension of conflict.
How about it? Are you ready to be a leader who doesn’t avoid conflict, but seeks to pursue peace? Let’s commit to pursuing a culture not just of a single melody, but one of great harmony. We don’t have to be leaders who settle for being peacekeepers, but can strive to be peacemakers.
Kelly D. King is the Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training for Lifeway Christian Resources. She is the author of Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide for Leading Women in the Local Church. You can hear Kelly at Lifeway’s You Lead events that are held in several cities around the country or listen to her co-host the Marked Podcast with Elizabeth Hyndman.