Women As Faculty: Managing Conflict with Grace and Confidence

Women As Faculty: Managing Conflict with Grace and Confidence

Karen D. Crozier
Fresno Pacific University

In celebration of our 40th Anniversary, members of the Standing Committee for Women are pleased to sponsor a Series in Developments. Our Series, “Women As,” explores how women’s intersecting identities (race, class, gender expression and performance, sexuality, religion, etc.) impact women’s experiences in different roles. Thus, authors share their ideas as women who are leaders, faculty, caregivers, and/or students. In support of a feminist approach to research and learning, articles will reflect an array of insights including practical strategies, research findings, lessons learned, arts-based research, visual inquiry, narrative inquiry, and reflections. We encourage you to utilize the discussion questions included in each article to stimulate your thinking and enhance your work in the classroom and/or workplace.

Managing Conflict with Grace and Confidence was the title of the training I led for a cohort of women leaders in the field of health and human services. In preparing to assist these women leaders, I developed a poem with the same title, Managing Conflict with Grace and Confidence, which I dedicated to them. The poem was received with great joy and amazement. The women leaders were astounded by how the poem spoke to them both individually and collectively. It captured their experience in a clear, succinct manner. I, too, was in awe of my ability to develop such a life-giving poem without knowing the group, and only having experienced one telephone conversation with the director of the cohort. In the process of developing the poem, I knew that the Divine was present, speaking words of healing and hope regardless of the women’s diverse religious or non-religious backgrounds. The participants seemed free to receive the poem regardless of their perspective regarding transcendent reality.

In this article, I offer you—the reader—the poem and my reflections on two guiding questions: What does managing conflict with grace and confidence mean to you? How do you manage conflict with grace and confidence? Before I share my poem, however, I feel it is important to describe the context—or social location—out of which I work. As an African American female in higher education who is also an ordained minister, I seek to be aware of the relationships between the physical, meta-physical, and the inner and outer worlds. Faith in a personal Divine being who is active in redeeming and restoring the various forms of injustices and oppression in the world informs my leadership. The spiritual resources on which I draw to lead, to engage, and to serve strengthen my walk in integrity and humility. As you read the poem, I invite you to reflect upon how you can live and speak your truth.

Managing Conflict with Grace and Confidence

I have learned how to be with the suffering and the pain

That comes from the numerous, varied oppressive systems and forces

That can derail and cause toxins that impact my psychic, physical, and

spiritual well-being

The depths of darkness I have engaged so that I will not internalize the bitterness

and shame

New eyes and renewed vision are given for the journey as I learn to find beauty

and depth amidst what far too many others tend to dismiss

Fear is held at bay so as not to consume the moment because the night vision is

necessary in order to move forward

Within the injustices, inequities, and multiple institutional atrocities, darkness is

present as both a negative and a positive

Far too many of God’s precious little ones are annihilated, denied and deprived

from life-giving conditions and opportunities

This negative darkness prevails and clouds our vision to see the depth, the beauty

of darkness, and the greatness of dark-hued peoples’ contributions

Oh the depth and rich density of the positive aspects of what can be revealed as

we learn to SEE and BE in, through, and beyond darkness

We as the human race are taught to fear darkness of both people and places

while failing to realize there are times when darkness is luminous

Lighting a path to our deliverance and peace, increasing our ability to engage

adversity

In the darkness, through the darkness, and beyond the darkness we as women

must lead while navigating and negotiating places and spaces in ways that

ushers one and all into new forms of our humanity

Distractions abound, but they do not represent the substance of who and what

matters in our leadership

When managing conflict with grace and confidence

We have a growing sense of purpose of privileging people over product and

service, or understanding the inextricable connection between caring for

people in the quality of our service or product

The politics of funding continue to hound especially in the time when greed and

hoarding abounds

We are challenged to find a way of redefining our relationships in more

redemptive ways

As we allow our voice, our vision, our values along with our team create fresh,

innovative revenue streams that allows for your creative juices to flow

instead of bowing and bending to funders who want all of the control

Self-sustaining is the new buzz word while failing to realize how we will always

need one another

Managing this particular conflict can leave one weary, tired, and worn

Yet interconnectedness and interdependency facilitates creative, imaginative

possibilities and proper awareness of the beautiful gifts and talents that

exist in the human family

Competition at times can help us rise to new heights and horizons

However, far too often, we find ourselves battling for crumbs amongst our sisters

and brothers

Competition does not have to negate the principle of our interconnected,

relational nature

When we realize one agency or organization does not have a monopoly on

serving and caring for the masses of humanity

The needs are great yet traps exist to box us in from responding to the deep

yearnings and pleas

Frank Lloyd Wright (2004), a 20th century pioneer in architecture once said, “We

have been too tolerant of re-form. It is true form we should now

be seeking” (p. 124).

Taking poetic license to build on Wright’s quote, I want to encourage you to be

True to your form when designing new structures for all of humanity to

dwell in health and abundant well-being

True to your form in grace and confidence knowing you have a wealth of

knowledge to share

True to your form through the valleys and over the hills persevering yet celebrating the milestones accomplished

True to your form in your UNIQUENESS yet keenly aware of not being

condescending

As you grow in being true to your form you will learn how to elicit the true

form in others with grace and confidence

fear will subside and trust will abide as you make internal and

external connections that constantly birth new life

As you can see this is not easy work, but one thing is for sure you have what

it takes

Go forth and manage conflict with grace and confidence because the world is

in need of such women leaders as you!!

In my brief introduction about my faith and spirituality, I alluded to how I manage conflict with grace and confidence. At this time, I would like to expound upon a particular, personal conflict in my leadership role in higher education. Presently, I am slowly moving from the margins of power to the center of power within the life of my institution. This move would seem exciting because it suggests more authority and more influence. However, at least two great temptations emerge for me as I move into a greater position of power and influence within my institution. Below I describe the temptations and how I am managing them with grace and confidence.

The first temptation is becoming intoxicated by institutional, hierarchical power. I resist this by maintaining my grounding in living, leading, engaging, and serving from my center—my core. I am managing this potentially dangerous internal conflict with grace and confidence by increasing my capacity to listen more to self, others, and the SPIRIT. I practice my intentional, attentive listening by summarizing or mirroring what I hear others say so they can feel affirmed in the process. My affirmation of my colleague(s) or supervisor(s) creates space for me to share my perspective that may or may not differ from their own in hopes of moving towards action that is more inclusive and life-giving.

Beneath the listening, and mirroring/summarizing, there is the relinquishment of assuming that I have the right answer. I trust the SPIRIT to make known how we are to respond in our engagement, reflection, and discernment of what seems “right” to pursue in the moment. Sometimes what I commit to doing is not ready to be received by my students, colleagues, or supervisors; nevertheless, I must work to be present to and supportive of where we are as an institution at the time. Other times, what I bring to the table seems right at the moment, and my comments or suggestions are received by the respective group. In short, in my leading, engaging, and serving as an African American female in the academy, I must continue to value self, people, and relationships as I move from the margins into places of institutional power.

The second temptation is closely connected to the first one. In maintaining my connection to the ground and people, I must also be aware of my wounds experienced on the margins, so that they will not interfere with the work to be done as I move closer to the center of institutional, hierarchical power. The temptation here is to retain my marginal identity and the wounds associated with it. Instead, I need to resist this temptation by defining and externalizing who I am in the new space and place. No doubt, this requires ongoing internal work because I will experience new wounds in the new role of leadership. However, as I tend to self and others, hopefully a new climate of care and compassion will be infused so that everyone I lead, serve, and engage with, will grow in their capacity to manage conflict with grace and confidence.

In closing, I am happy, honored, and humbled that the poem emerged in my leadership role with women. As I served with and among women, I was able to give birth to something new and life-giving. May we, as women, be ever mindful to value and affirm one another as we lead with grace and confidence.

Discussion Questions

  • The author discusses managing internal and external forms of conflict. How do you manage these forms of conflicts in your professional life?
  • How do you think grace and confidence are exhibited while managing conflict according to the author?
  • What, if anything, resonates with you regarding the way the author nurtures and accesses her interior or internal world in leadership and overall well-being?

References

Wright, F. L. (2004). Frank Lloyd Wright: A journal. San Francisco: Pomegranate Communications, Inc.

About the Authors

Karen D. Crozier, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of practical theology, and special assistant to the provost for peace and justice initiatives at Fresno Pacific University.

Please e-mail inquiries to Karen D. Crozier.

Disclaimer

The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

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