The Leadership Context

Context matters! A lot of leaders sometimes falsely assume that because they are successful in one context, they will automatically be successful in another leadership context. Leadership experience and skills are not always transferable because what worked in one context will not always work in another. It is important as a leader to know what contexts you thrive in. There are some contexts that play to your strengths and you are superstar when you operate in such contexts but there are some contexts that you lack the experience and skills to function effectively.

Ulysees S Grant (1822-1885) was the General-in-chief of the Union Army during the American Civil War and he led the Northern Army to victory against the Confederate States army. He was a brilliant and successful general, as well as a great leader of men. He was encouraged to campaign for the US presidency as a result of his military successes which he won comfortably in 1868. Though Grant would go on to have two terms in the White House, he was however unable to transfer his successful leadership experience in the military context into a successful political presidency.

A brilliant judge of character and recruiter of talent as an army general, Grant selected poorly as a president and he suffered dearly for it. He tried to run the White House like he ran the army by recruiting former military subordinates instead of better qualified politicians. He simply lacked the necessary political skills to lead the nation yet had enough to successfully lead the US army. Grant’s presidential tenure is regarded as one of the worst and most corrupt in US history.

Before jumping into an unfamiliar context, it is important to identify what you have {or don’t have} to be successful and effective in that new context. It is not impossible to transition into another different leadership context but you have to be willing to invest the time and effort required to master this new and unfamiliar arena.

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