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Situations are a commonality that all of us have to face every moment of our lives.
We are continually involved in situations of some kind or another. Trying to avoid situations is like trying to avoid breathing.
All our perceptions contribute to our understanding of the situations that we experience.
An article a few weeks ago introduced the five commonalities that seven billion people on Earth have in common: Situations, People, Choices, Obstacles and Movement. In short we call this SipCom.
Interestingly enough, our leadership ability can be measured by our performance in relation to each of the five areas. Recently we commented on the People factor, discussing leadership styles as far as people are concerned.
Today we focus on the situational dynamics aspect of leadership. Situations can be defined as “state of affairs”, “circumstances”, and “conditions”. Somehow these descriptions do not necessarily capture the immense emotionality and meanings that can be contained in many “situations”.
Perceptions of situations differ radically from one person to another. The same set of external circumstances may evoke feelings of happiness in one person and intense pain in another.
This is because of our vastly different backgrounds, personalities and attitudes. One person genuinely sees a so-called problematic situation as a life threatening disaster, another sees the same situation as an opportunity. One person grimaces in terror, another person smiles and feels excited.
Our attitude towards life situations is crucial to our personal well-being and to our happiness and performance as leaders.
For example, a person who was severely abused as a child will perceive many situations as panic triggers, whereas another person may enjoy such situations as fun.
Situations are where all things come together in a focus of positive and negative perceptions, character traits, beliefs and unbelief, confidence and fears, confusion and directional clarity, good and bad, joys and regrets, unity and contention, energy and fatigue, hope and despair and a possible million other things.
Situations may evoke the greatest of happiness or the deepest of pits.
Let’s look at some key leadership imperatives of situational dynamics:
1. All situations have commonalities that affect each of us. These are people, choices, obstacles and movement.
Bear in mind that we are all also “people”. How we perceive our situations in relation to these other four commonalities will determine to a large extent the evolvement of particular situations into more positive further situations.
We will always have situations around, in and over us! We have the inherent power to determine to a large extent our own situations and certainly we have the power to determine our attitudes towards situations!
2. Our perception of situations is mostly determined by our contextual understanding of the commonalities listed above. The greater the vision and respect we have of people and their vast potential, the greater our contextual understanding of situations.
The clearer we are on the invaluable role that so-called obstacles/ barriers/resistances play in developing character and confidence in us, the greater our contextual understanding of situations that face us.
The more confidence we have in movement processes that lift barriers to potential, the more we will be empowered to tackle situations fearlessly.
3. The context circle. Each situation may have unlimited perspectives, but mainly two contexts.
The first context is the perception of meaning that the immediate situation triggers in us. This is what we feel at first contact with a situation.
This is a highly personal and emotional response to a perceived situation. The second context is our perception of the greater context or picture of the situation.
This means that we evaluate the situation in the light of our values and the possible evolvements of the situation.
This also involves a conscious and sub-conscious evaluation of the impact of and on the other commonalities of life – people, choice, obstacles and movement implications. This is what emotional and mental maturity is all about.
As we do this, the context circle kicks into motion and we tend to go back and adjust the original situational perception accordingly.
We apply this process all the time and this is what saves us from making ridiculous mistakes. Some of us just do it better than others!
4. The imperative of humility in situational dynamics. No person or leader can understand all the perspectives of even the simplest situations. We may feel we have “control” over many situations but the truth is that we cannot possibly be aware of the millions of possible impacts of things around us.
What we physically see, hear, smell, and feel is a very small part of the full reality of things around us. The unseen realities in life are vastly more than what we perceive physically.
It is the awareness of our mortal limitations that generate humility in great individuals and leaders. That is why great leaders are always listening, learning and growing mentally and emotionally.
By being humble they are continuously building their contextual maturity and grasp of situational dynamics.
A lack of humility is one of the reasons that many leaders adopt a telling or contentious style of leadership, rather than the seamless style of sharing, caring and respecting.
5. The impact of self image. As in all things, our image of who and what we are is an imperative of situational dynamics.
We should be working every day to mature our self image. It is very difficult, even impossible in many cases, for a person to rise above their own self image.
They have to firstly change their self image to come to terms with their vast potential. As we increase our own contextual maturity in terms of our attitude towards the five commonalities of life, we will also improve our “belief in self, belief in others around us and belief in universal principles” (Thomas A Monson).
The truth is that our perception of situations is governed by our contextual maturity. The more mature we are in facing the commonalities of life, the more control we feel over situations.
The greater our mental and emotional grasp of context in terms of people, choices, obstacles and movement, the greater our contextual maturity and the more control we have over situations.
Every situation effectively contains a people factor, (even if only ourselves at times), choice factor, the obstacle (resistance, barrier, testing pressures) factor and the movement factor (how we move our barriers to excellence).
Some of you older leaders may remember the old song by Jim Reeves, “A stranger’s just a friend you do not know”. We can paraphrase these great words by stating that: “A problem situation is an answer that I do not know”.
With faith and experience, we can process each challenging situation so that it becomes an answer, rather than a problem.
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