contextual thinkingThe second quality highlighted on the Leadership Effectiveness Profile as being essential to strong leadership is contextual thinking. Contextual thinking means how well you link specific events, tasks and actions in a wider perspective or pattern.

Good leaders need to be able to see the big picture, and how all the smaller parts fit into it. We see examples of contextual thinking throughout scripture– and even in the way God has set up redemptive history.

Early in Genesis, God established the Abrahamic covenant and he has worked consistently within that framework, even through its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus (Gen. 12, Rom 4). And Jesus himself didn’t come out of nowhere. He arrived through a long, sometimes tangled, geneological web that ties the scriptures together. Read through the geneology of Jesus in Matthew 1 and you’ll see some familiar names: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Tamar, Rahab, Boaz, Ruth, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah, Mary.

God was seeing the big picture, putting everything into the right context and time.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, (Eccl. 3:1-4) 

When we look at human examples of leadership in the Bible, we a great deal of contextual thinking.  We see an awareness of time, space, culture, and context.  Look at the ministry of the Apostle Paul:

  • He quotes secular poets to the Greeks on Mars Hill (Acts 17).
  • He recognized the importance of individual convictions about dietary restrictions (Rom. 14).
  • He became all things to all men, that he might win some (I Cor. 9).

Taking context into account isn’t compromise; it’s biblical.

Try taking a look at the quality of contextual thinking in your own leadership experience. An assessment that may be helpful is the Problem Solving and Decision-Making Profile. Then if you’d like to explore more deeply, you can check out the Problem Solving Skill Builder Booklet and the Problem Solving Skills Storyboard.

During this series of blog entries, we’re walking through the 8 characteristics highlighted in the Leadership Effectiveness Profile. These characteristics were found through observation and research in response to the question, “What makes an effective leader?”