5 Questions for Understanding Your Leadership Context

A leader understands his leadership context by spending time with his team.

Great leaders make their visions a reality. A leader’s effectiveness is measured by how well they, and their organizations, carry out their plans and reach their goals.

For many of us, it can be easy to become entangled in our visions and long-term aspirations. We become so focused on creating and carrying out our plans that we miss where we are now, seeing our company not for what it is, but what we’d like it to be. Eventually, we become so lost in our ambitions that we’re unable to inspire our teams or make progress towards our goals. Why? Because we fail to understand our context.

Understanding your leadership context looks different for every leader and organization, but the principle remains the same: before you can get to where you’re going, you need to understand where you are. Examining your context involves knowing yourself, what you have to work with and who you have around you. From there, you can create a framework to get your organization from where it is to where you want it to be. But where do you begin?

Here are five questions to help you audit your context.

1. What do I bring to the table?

Auditing your leadership context starts with understanding yourself as a leader. Take inventory of your strengths, abilities and what you have to offer your team. Then, consider what you’re passionate about: your dreams, interests and what drives you to succeed. 

By understanding your capabilities, you’ll be able to authentically lead your organization and effectively position yourself within your framework. It will also prepare you to audit your context and know how to best support your team.

2. Who am I leading?

The second part of auditing your context involves understanding those around you. Each member of your team brings something unique to the group, with abilities and strengths that can help you successfully carry out your vision. 

Be intentional about getting to know your team members personally. Consider each of their strengths and interests, and ask them what they’re passionate about. By getting to know your team, you will be able to better understand each member’s unique capabilities to carry out the vision, effectively support them and put them in positions where they will not only succeed, but thrive.

3. What environment am I in?

Many leaders fail to consider the culture they’re working in. Former leadership, long-standing operating procedures, unspoken expectations and the emotional climate of the organization influence where the company is now, and how it operates on a daily basis.

When looking to make changes, remember to consider the history and culture of the organization. Consult your team, colleagues and management to get an accurate idea of the climate before you start crafting your vision. Understanding your company’s culture is crucial to informing how you make your framework and begin taking steps with your team towards your goals.

4. What is the reality of the situation?

Auditing your context means considering the company’s condition as it currently stands. You need to take an unbiased look at the reality of the situation, considering all of the positives and negatives.

Take time to consider what challenges you and your team might face, both from inside and outside your organization. Recognize potential competition and limitations that might inhibit you from reaching your goals. Being aware of your organization’s condition will help you create a realistic, viable framework and begin to move forward.

5. What resources are available?

Once you are aware of the obstacles you may face in trying to reach your goal, you can take inventory of what you currently have available to overcome them.

Understanding your leadership context starts with considering the knowledge, relationships, strengths and other assets that can help you and your organization succeed. Consult with your team and make a list of all the resources at your disposal, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Knowing what you have will make challenges seem less daunting and give you an accurate idea of what you can accomplish. 

Auditing your context will set you and your team up for success. You will have a better understanding of where you and your organization stand, what’s available to you and the obstacles you need to overcome. From there, you will be able to make a well-grounded, educated framework that will allow you and your team to make your vision a reality. 

For more about how auditing your context can improve your leadership, check out my book, Framework Leadership.