Sternberg's Concept Of Contextual Intelligence

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Sternberg (1988, 1995) used the term "contextual intelligence" as synonym for his concept of practical intelligence, a subtheme within his theory of Triarchic Intelligence. He described it as the ability to apply intelligence practically, which includes considering social, cultural, and historical backgrounds (Sternberg, 1988). Individuals who have a high level of contextual intelligence easily adapt to their surroundings, can fit into new surroundings easily, and can fix their surroundings when they perceive it to be necessary (Sternberg, 1988). Since that time the term contextual intelligence has been used theoretically by different practitioners and researchers in disciplines, such as nursing, psychology, business, education, medicine, and…show more content…
21). Terenzini (1993) implies that awareness of many of these conditions is a prerequisite of contextual intelligence. Therefore, without an understanding the contextual ethos, one cannot fully behave in a contextually intelligent manner.
Hayes and Brown (2004) provide a useful analogy by describing how developing contextual intelligence follows a similar process as one would have when preparing to enter a foreign country for the first time. Without knowing the local language, customs, culture, religions, and relevant history of that country it would not matter how intelligent or powerful that person was. In other words, their intelligence, persona, and power would be of no value to them in gaining influence if they were ignorant of the local
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It was Fiedler (1967) who originally observed that leadership does not take place in a vacuum, which led to later research emphasizing that the leader and context reciprocally influence each other (Endler & Magnusson, 1976). When only a single context is the focus of performance the risk of becoming myopic increases. Contemporary leadership models necessarily should include the dynamic nature of contexts. Which includes at least two facets: 1) larger contexts have dynamic sub-contexts, and 2) additional contexts exist. In other words, within a given context there is an internal shifting in the variables and factors that make the context what it is; and there are contexts (sometimes unrelated) that influence other contexts. Contexts are like planets; they can either align, collide, or influence each other with their gravitational pull. It is one thing to learn the specific behaviors, attitudes and values of a context and thrive within it. It is a completely other thing to transition between contexts across multiple structures, which is typically the case for today's leaders. Contextual intelligence offers a framework to account for both these aspects of complexity within the construct of

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