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Section 2: Context

Page history last edited by Stephen Ritch 14 years, 4 months ago



The contexts of the leadership program affects the conceptual framework which, in turn, determines in large measure, program content, teaching and learning approaches and outcomes and assessment. This section poses questions that guide the collection of relevant expertise and experience on how context impacts leadership programs.

This chapter seeks to understand the context aspects of leadership programs, in a larger effort to understand how contextual factors affect the overall development of leadership programs. Along with this effort, the aim is to assist those who develop leadership programs in making wise choices concerning context. Johnson and Fauske (2005) advocate that contextual understandings lend themselves to the overall experience; specifically with teaching, learning, counseling, and coaching; while they advocate the experience directly in the organizational context one cannot overlook the imperative they reach—that context matters. This is consistent with Taylor, de Guerre, Gavin, and Kass (2002) who promote a systematic approach to leadership education within a social process, including “the collaborative development of productive organization contexts, the effective use of theory-in-practice, expertise for learning-in-action, and requisite self-knowledge”; in fact they adamantly acknowledge that context is a priority.


Questions on Various Contextual Categories


• How have the following contextual categories been considered and addressed: Identity (Gender, Culture, Socio-economic, Regional, National); sector (For-profit, Not-for-profit, Education, Politics, Community, Social Change); academic (Graduate, Undergraduate, Co-curricular, Curricular, Practice and experience, On-line, on ground, and distributive)?

• How has 'place' as defined by physical, professional, political and/or cultural identity been considered in the program?

• What are the narratives (‘stories’) behind the development or evolution of the program?

• How does disciplinary or organizational context impact the leadership program?

• What are the fields of practice your program serves?

• How does the field of leadership get translated into and connect with that field of practice?


This sub-section looks specifically at the various contextual categories in leadership programs; including the inquiry into what contextual categories might even exist—such as (though not limited to) identity, sector and academic, the concept of place, the idea of narratives and stories in the evolution of a program, the varied fields of practice served by programs, and the connection of the field of leadership with the field of practice. According to Taylor, de Guerre, Gavin, and Kass (2002) there are wide ranging implications for the intersection of leadership practice and theory—specifically in the area of context. Consistent with this is Huber (2003) who advocates leadership education must include some development in the ideas of tolerance for ambiguity (engaging ideas such as gender, race, etc…), and further that advocates teachers and professors move beyond the traditional methods and seek further challenges.


Questions on Cultural Contexts

• How does the institution’s global setting impact leadership programming?

• How are current issues and trends (e.g., diversity, globalization, security, and technology) addressed?

• How does the program recognize and build upon cultural foundations?

• How does the program recognize the intersection of different cultures, traditions, and values?


This sub-section looks specifically at the cultural components in leadership programs; including the inquiry of a global setting, current issues and trends, foundations of culture, as well as how programs deal with the intersection of different cultures, traditions and values. We see from the work of Taylor, de Guerre, Gavin, and Kass (2002) that the global context influences leadership education, as they advocate a strong consideration of the global flux facing leaders today. This shift to a more globally focused leadership education includes a nuances in shifting that include a shift from theory to practice, from parts to systems, from states and roles to processes, from knowledge to learning, from individual action to partnerships and from detached analysis to reflexive understanding. This global context includes a thorough understanding of current trends and issues. McNally, Gerras, and Bullis (1996) show, with their analysis of their leadership programs, that the “ability to understand the subtleties and ambiguities they will face in complex leadership situations in the future”, in other words—the cultural context influences the leadership educational process.


Questions on Institutional Context

• What is the institution’s and program's vision for the future?

• What is the institution’s and program's mission?

• How do the program and institutional visions and missions relate?

• What professional, government, institutional, or other guidelines of excellence are used to develop programs?


This sub-section looks specifically at the institutional components in leadership programs; including the inquiry of the institutions and programs vision for the future, the mission of both institution and program—along with the connection between mission and vision, and finally the potential for alternative guidelines in leadership programs, including (though not limited to) professional, government and corporate guidelines of excellence in the development of leadership programs. Nirenberg (2003) poses a valid inquiry with his stance on the institution and asking if institutions are the barrier in addressing change in leadership programs that might be necessary—while this might seem unrelated, the larger question is obvious—institutional context matters a great deal, specifically when one looks at the larger implications that institutions place on programs—not to mention that specific schools might also do so. For example, most change in programs come from outside the program, as well the placement of the leadership program—as some leadership programs are stand alone schools, some are within another discipline, and some are tracks or majors versus minors. Leadership programs do, and will, have to consider the larger implications that institutional context places on the programs themselves, such as does the leadership program ‘fit’ into the larger context, or does the leadership program fit the vision for the institutions. Large questions like these need to be addressed, and potentially answered by those considering leadership development programs.



Huber, N. (2003). An Experiential Leadership Approach for Teaching Tolerance for Ambiguity. Journal of Education for Business, 79(1), 52-55.

McNally, J. A., Gerras, S. Bullis, R. C. (1996). Teaching leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 32(2), 175.

Nirenberg, J. (2003). Toward Leadership Education That Matters. Journal of Education for Business, 79(1), 6-10

Johnson Jr, B.L., & Fauske, J. R. (2005). Introduction: Organization theory, educational leadership and educational research. Journal of Educational Administration, 43(1), 5-8.

Taylor, M., de Guerre, D., Gavin, J., & Kass, R. (2002). Graduate leadership education for dynamic human systems. Management Learning, 33(3), 349-369.

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