Putting Leadership Into Context

March 04, 2015

Putting Leadership Into Context

The following is a brief excerpt from my book, The Trojan Horse of Leadership: Battling the Enemy We All Face. It deals with the context in which a leader should exhibit their strengths. (The actual excerpt is in italics).

Some years ago I heard a conference speaker say, “A text outside of its context leaves you with a con.” To some it may seem a trite saying but it’s truth cannot be denied. Our interpretation of what we read should have at least some awareness of its context, otherwise we can be guilty of misrepresenting the text.

I’ve not only remembered this catchy phrase but have repeated it countless times in class and during messages. It’s a principle I teach again and again. Because here is the sad reality: If I wanted, I could make the Bible say virtually anything. I can find support for murder, multiple wives, racial segregation, you name it.

Whatever particular issue resonates with me it is easy to manipulate texts that will support my individual bent. The more we isolate a text from its historical, literary, and theological context, the more we can make it say whatever we want. It is not an easy discipline to achieve because it takes work. You’ve got to get into the text and do the hard work of connecting the flow of the argument so you understand the essence of what is being taught.

We hear this all the time when celebrities complain when a journalist has misquoted or taken a statement out of context. And in our world of gross de-contextualization, we can make anyone appear to say virtually anything. What is true about interpreting the Bible in context is also true of leadership.

Leadership, for the most part, is meant to be exercised within a particular sphere or context. For a leader, our unawareness of that context can render our particular strengths useless. I think it’s fair to say that many strong leaders carry their strengths into every area of life.

After all how do you turn-on and turn-off the way you are naturally wired? If you have a job that demands precision and detail, you likely will exhibit that at home as well. Context is a means by which our strengths are allowed to flourish in the environment they were meant to work best in. Remember when we said passion is ignited when the real self connects with the right task environment.[1]

This is the best of both worlds, when your strengths match the context. In discussing context we are talking about a number of factors:

1. Environment - The areas where your strengths are meant to be used.

2. Amount - The degree in which you bring your strength to a situation.

3. Timing - The time(s) when your strengths make you most productive.

The context in which a leader exercises their strengths is rarely considered. Yet, it can make the difference between being competent and productive, or being rendered ineffectual. I hope you found this brief excerpt helpful.

You can get two free chapters of my book here, or you can order your very own copy here. 

[1] Townsend, Leadership Beyond Reason, 132.

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