I truly believe that strong leadership can make or break any situation. I developed a leadership model, after studying many different approaches to leadership, that I have since used in many different domains. I call this approach, Contextual Leadership.
To begin, I define leadership as: The contextually appropriate, social distribution of power. However, in order to best distribute power in any given context, people within the context must be aware of the roles that they fill within the context.
Roles are critical to understand and, in my experience, taken for granted. To illustrate, though we are human, we fill various roles in life in order to live. Almost any action we take is done through a role that we fill. For example, on any given morning, I make my son breakfast; get after to him to get dressed, and then drive him to school. As a “Father,” I believe those actions are a basic part of the gig. “Father” is a role.
Whatever we do for a living is also done through a role. Basically, all work actions are done through roles that the organization or work industry defines for us. To do well in any role within any context, I believe (and the hard research shows) that roles need to be:
- Situated = People are situated within a role when they gain a sense of meaning from the role and believe themselves competent within the role they fill. This is the most important piece of the entire model; when person is not situated within a role, he or she will more than likely not perform well within in either the role or the context.
- Social = influential (impact)+ influence-able, and interdependent. Roles behave systematically, that is, they influence other role actions, are influenced by other role actions, and are interdependent to other roles. Also, through this process of interdependent influence, people will change the context.
- Autonomous = self determining. A person defines the role methods for him or her self, even though the context defines role behaviors.
- Flexible = People within roles must be flexible in order to adapt to contextual changes.
How do we come to know if we meet these criteria? Through critically reflecting upon our roles and asking ourselves if we meet these standards. Understanding the roles we fill through the lens of roles and leadership will increase our sense of psychological empowerment and help us perform better. Understanding our roles is the first step towards leadership.
Try this: Think of a role that you fill and ask yourself: Am I a match for this role? Do I believe that I’m competent in the role? if not, how can i become a better fit for the role?