No one likes to deal with conflict, especially on your team or in your organization. No one likes to deal with those outliers who feign cooperation but have become Trojan Horses. As a team leader, you need to deal directly with any conflict that represents a challenge to the collective interest--either of the team or of the organization. "Conflict" is dissension that goes past the give-and-take debate that is normal and necessary among teams. Measured, healthy conflict makes good ideas better.
When real conflict arises, you may be tempted to put your head in the sand and just ignore the slings and arrows that are coming your way. However, nothing could be more damaging to your agenda. To sustain the momentum of your project, you need to keep a constant accounting of who is on your side--and who you want to keep on your side. Notice that these are two entirely different categories. As a leader, those you don't want on your side can come in the guise of a Trojan Horse.
The presence of a Trojan Horse on your team or on the periphery can threaten your project. A Trojan Horse can come in many colors. There are several general types:
The deceiver. This individual is externally cooperative, but at the same time, he or she is pursuing other agendas that may weaken or even subvert the team's efforts.
The toxic player. Again, the individual is externally cooperative and claims to be working for the good of the team--but his or her personality or style is a continuous source of conflict and irritation.
The controller. This person is super-smooth and confident, and his or her abilities outshine those of other team members--but ultimately, by failing to work well with others, he or she weakens the team rather than strengthen it.
The hanger-on. This type clings to the past experience and direction of organization, but has trouble working toward new concepts, agendas, and directions.
Each of these types is a potential Trojan Horse. From the outside looking in, they seem to be an asset to the team, but beneath the veneer, their presence can be disruptive.
If Trojan Horses were consciously Machiavellian, self-serving, and unscrupulous, then organizational life would be simpler. The problem is that Trojan Horses have some positive attributes, and outwardly, their presence seems to be an asset. However, over time, their negative impact outweighs whatever virtues they bring to the project. When Trojan Horses do more harm than good, pragmatic leaders must stop feeding them.
When you decide to remove a Trojan Horse, you have make it clear to others that that their removal will strengthen the team, and that you are not acting out of jealousy, or on a momentary whim. Dealing with the Trojan Horse is a pragmatic decision that must be based on your belief that its elimination will enhance not only your team's cohesion but also its ability to move forward.
One of the mistakes leaders make is that they kick the can down the road. They assume, if left alone, that everything will work out. But no matter how optimistic or hopeful you may be, sometimes you have to put the Trojan Horse outside your walls. Leadership is about realism and the courage to confront, no matter how difficult it may be.