The role of context in leadership -- third in a three-part series - SNEWS

The role of context in leadership -- third in a three-part series

The previous two articles in this three-part series used a standard outline form as a way to describe how we communicate and how we can fill in that outline to create context and understanding. The higher up the outline, the more foundational the concept. The lower we went on the outline, the greater the level of detail. The more the outline hierarchy is filled out for people, the more they share your level of understanding.
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In the second installment of SNEWS®'s series on the topic of creating understanding through communicating context, we explored how understanding the concept of communication can be applied as we delegate to others -- a helpful tool to use as leaders in our organizations. To read that article, click here

The previous two articles in this three-part series used a standard outline form as a way to describe how we communicate and how we can fill in that outline to create context and understanding. The higher up the outline, the more foundational the concept. The lower we went on the outline, the greater the level of detail. The more the outline hierarchy is filled out for people, the more they share your level of understanding.

A couple of years ago, Adages from Ascent featured a series on the topic of leadership. We offered this definition of leadership:

"Leadership is having a vision, effectively communicating that vision to others, and equipping and inspiring them to help attain that vision."

Given this definition of leadership, one can see the importance of clear communication and shared understanding to be an effective leader.


In those issues on the topic of leadership, we presented the following chart to explain how the role of leadership evolves as an individual climbs the corporate ladder and as the organization grows in size and complexity:

The ratio of doing, managing and leading shifts as our careers and companies evolve. At first, we are mostly doing, then we shift to mostly managing, and, finally, to mostly leading.

These two concepts -- the outline form we shared in the first article of this series (click here to read ) and the evolution from doing to managing to leading -- are very much interrelated. Consider this:

  • When the main focus of our position is in "doing," we necessarily focus on the items lower in the outline hierarchy -- the lowercase letters and numbers in parentheses.
  • When we are primarily a manager, we find ourselves working on the mid levels of the outline hierarchy.
  • When we are at the most senior levels of the organization, and focus on leading over managing or doing, we are working at the most foundational levels of the outline form, the Roman numerals and such.
  • What are the ramifications?
  • If you are indeed at the highest levels of your organization, make sure you are indeed working on the Roman numeral levels of your organization's outline.
  • Make sure you have a firm understanding of what the whole outline looks like for your organization.
  • Consider the level of tasks that you delegate to your direct reports: Are they at the appropriate level, not too high and not too detailed?
  • Monitor the activities of your staff to make sure they align with the appropriate level for their role in the company.
  • Make sure the entire organization has a working understanding of the ideas and concepts found in the Roman numerals and capital letters.
  • Take every opportunity to remind people of those Roman numerals and capital letters.
  • When communicating to your organization, constantly create context by reminding them of the foundational concepts of your organization. Explain to them how this relates to the topic and tasks at hand.

© Ascent Advising 2008 (reprinted exclusively by SNEWS® with permission)

Dave Bartholomew is a principal with Ascent Advising, providing wide-ranging business advisory services to companies around the globe. His 30 years in leadership roles in the outdoor industry equip him well for coming alongside business owners and executive teams in moving their companies ever upward. His popular email newsletter, "Adages from Ascent," brings to light vital and innovative concepts for running a business. For a free subscription, and to view past issues of the newsletter, visit AscentAdvising.com and follow the link for "Adages from Ascent." Dave can be reached at Dave@AscentAdvising.com or 206-669-7055.

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