Contextual Consciousness

The course that I currently teach at the Harvard Kennedy School is titled, Leadership System – Leaders, Followers, and Contexts. As the title implies, the course gives no more weight to the study of leaders than it does to followers – and to contexts. Regarding the last, I am forever preaching the virtues, to leaders, of being 1) contextually conscious; 2) contextually expert; and 3) contextually intelligent.

I was gratified to read, therefore, that increasingly I’m in good company. According to a recent article in the Financial Times, business schools especially are coming to recognize that “geopolitical events shape the environment in which businesses operate” and that, therefore, familiarizing their students with these environments is of paramount pedagogical importance.*

This might not seem like rocket science. But, as a rule, leadership training and development focus on individuals, not on the context(s) within which these individuals must, perforce, function. Always was ridiculous – and is even more ridiculous now when, as one professor put it, the importance of geopolitics is so obvious, courses on the subject have transitioned from being “nice-to-have” to “must-have.”

Leadership learners of every stripe would be well advised to take a cue from their corporate counterparts. It is impossible to lead even reasonably wisely and well in this world without having some semblance of understanding it.




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