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Leadership Theories: The Evolution of Context

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A key element for effective leadership is recognizing that leadership is embedded in context. Effective leaders are skilled at reading the contexts in which they operate and knowing how to effectively engage with this context. Despite this, the role of context has been largely ignored in leadership theory and research. Unless the importance of context is realized, a successful leader at one type of organization may fail miserably at another. Research the changes in leadership theories relating to context.

I need help in answering the following questions about Leadership Theories:
1. What is meant by context and how has context been treated in formal leadership research? What new factors may have led to the inclusion of context in leadership theories?

2. Based on your research, provide an example of a leader who effectively engaged with context and another leader who failed to read and engage with the context effectively. What differences can you identify in their leadership styles and approaches?

3. Reflect on the challenges of developing contextual theories of leadership and how you think that these challenges can be met.

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The solution discusses leadership theories regarding the evolution of context.

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Leadership Theories: The Evolution of Context

What is Context?
Context is the circumstance that is the basis of a situation. So a situation can be best understood in the context which has created the situation. Context is something which restricts the range of research or threatens its validity. However organizational context has no standard definition. The environmental factors are specific to business and create context for the business. Other examples of context are internal changes in the organization, changes in competitive landscape, changes in the mission of the organization, etc.

Importance of context in leadership
Leadership is defined as the influence which is exerted by an individual over others to attain organizational goals. Context is critical to leadership. Without context, every business decision made by leader becomes a guess. Leadership does not change, but context changes. There are many reasons for changes in context. For example in 1980s many companies were deregulated as a result of which certain people created new companies. This is awareness of the context and ability to adapt to it. Leadership is about having personal characteristics but it is also important to apply skills to specific context to be successful. Leadership can be used in different situations though it needs to be applied in different manner depending on context of the situation. Often leadership is assumed to be universally applicable to all situations without analyzing the context. Individuals who are regarded as leaders can be victim to false cult of senior executives of an organization who would believe that if these individuals were successful in the past they would be successful in the future also. Turnbull James and Ladkin (2008) argue that rather than developing 'idealized', generic capabilities, leadership development needs to encourage leaders to understand and respond to their particular contexts and enact the skills and capabilities that are required for their situation and time. It requires ability from leaders to grasp the situation and create a customized intervention. Hence, leadership is not just about generic competence in certain areas like communication but an understanding of what the message is and what kind of conversation is needed and who should be taking part in it.

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