The Missing Element in Leadership: Context Acumen

We all know that leaders must deliver results despite rapidly changing external realities, shifting internal circumstances, increasing complexity and constant change. Every industry from the private sector to the government faces constrained resources, new threats, and growing expectations. While leadership style and skillsets contribute to success, leaders must also grasp their context to mitigate risks, achieve their goals, and leverage opportunities.

We just can’t keep doing what we have always done in a dynamic environment without accounting for context. 

Contextual mastery or knowing the “lay of the land” is key in SunTzu’s The Art of War, Satow’s Diplomatic Practice, Warren Buffet’s essays, and every medical textbook. Likewise, leaders must also diagnose and embrace their circumstances to succeed.

Even experienced and talented leaders do not have all the right answers but they can ask the right questions to surface key insights, boost engagement, respect, and teamwork. Many leaders use a checklist of questions to corral data, surface creative alternatives, select key priorities, and secure support.

Effective leaders must accurately assess what has happened, what is happening, and what should happen to make the right call at the right time. This practice does not require a genius-level IQ or an MBA. It does require a dedication to collect, analyze, and prioritize information across six contextual business acumen mindsets.

Just as three primary colors fuse into an extensive spectrum and seven notes arranged thoughtfully produce a symphony, six mindsets capture and richly describe the current business context: Inventing, Catalyzing, Developing, Performing, Protecting, and Challenging. 

These situationally-based mindsets promote critical thinking, reveal creative alternatives, and determine key goals. Ask yourself which of the mindsets below is truly critical to your organization at this point in time? What is keeping you up at night? What must be achieved first?

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Effective leaders cannot do everything that they want to do, so they must target what is vital at this moment in time. Leaders must know more than who they are, how to work with others, and how to perform the job tasks.

Successful leaders need to know what they are confronting and make informed, wise and timely choices. 

We cannot continue to overlook this key component of leadership. Situational mindsets analysis offers a framework for making smart decisions to get it right the first time. Contextual analysis practices are an essential leadership ingredient.

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Dr. Mary Lippitt
Dr. Mary Lippitthttp://www.enterprisemgt.com
Dr. Mary Lippitt is an award-winning author of "Brilliant or Blunder: 6 Ways Leaders Navigate Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Complexity.” She founded Enterprise Management Ltd. in 1984 to provide leaders with practical and effective solutions to navigate the modern business climate using situational mastery. Dr. Lippitt is a thought leader and speaker on executing change, optimal leadership, and situational analysis. She currently teaches in the MBA program at the University of South Florida. Mary is also the author of Situational Mindsets: Targeting What Matters When It Matters.