Leader_Shift: Luxury or Necessity?

Recurring elements that emerge when asked what are the top attributes of leaders are:

  • Vision
  • Integrity
  • Perseverance
  • Courage
  • Innovation
  • Risk Taking

In some way, in some measure all the above attributes are necessary and take up the time of the leader any given day. Each has an expectation in the eyes of stakeholders in and out of the organization. Each has it emotional, mental, physical and spiritual toll on the leader. The question is which attribute at which time to what people and to what benefit to the organization does a leader focus on any one attribute.

Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria in their ground breaking book, In Their Time, uncover what they call an over ridding element that must be factored into successful leadership. That over ridding element that they identified is what they call, “Contextual Intelligence”. The authors define Contextual Intelligence as, “an innate ability to read forces that shape the time in which leaders lived…and to seize on the resulting opportunities.” Their contention is that throughout history successful leaders have taken advantage of circumstances to benefit their positions as well as the organization’s positions.

Specifically Mayo and Nohria state that Contextual Intelligence leaders have the ability to do four things beyond the above stated attributes of leadership.

  1. The ability to understand the times they live in.
  2. The ability to make adjustments or to adapt to their business to respond successfully to the times.
  3. The ability to take the impact of the external realities (both negatively and positively) but stay true to their core and in turn respond and influence from an intrinsic strength.
  4. The ability to navigate through the turbulent white waters while others do not.

So here is the essential element to being a Contextual Intelligence leader. Stepping back to assess, flex, contend, and strategize. All of these are aspects of being a Contextual Intelligence leader. However all elements that don’t seem to be a priority when you have to make that payment, close that deal, make that retracted decision due to challenging times in the economy. But is a leader sees these activities as essential and not a luxury there is a chance to survive and thrive in difficult times.

‘Shift Your Leadership’ Questions: Have you as a leader…

  1. Taken a step back to understand the more complex and systemic issues you are facing?
  2. Made decisions where and how to be flexible as to the journey to your outcomes and vision?
  3. Ensured that your core values have not been comprimised for the short term benefit?
  4. Become a master at navigating the white waters of the times by understanding your contribution to the organization as CSO…Chief Strategic Officer?
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