Contextual awareness

Transformational leadership is the ability to inspire and motivate employees and stakeholders to create the conditions for successful transformation. Having contextual awareness is essential to this.

What is contextual awareness?

The ability to understand the context in which transformation is being delivered, including political, social, economic, environmental, cultural, and inter-personal dynamics, and being attuned to all these influences so that they can be managed in the interest of the desired outcomes.

Being aware of constraints and enablers including people, culture, technology, finances, regulation.

Essential for:

  • All types of transformation.


  • Understanding the potential enablers and constraints that impact the conditions for successful transformation.
  • Understanding how to build effective interpersonal relationships.
  • Understanding of cultural differences.
  • Knowledge of how to effectively manage cultural and situational risks.
  • Understanding of the principles of positive psychology.
  • Know when to use different types of communication.


Able to:

  • Observe and analyse: Situational context objectively, identifying behaviours, patterns, potential risks, and opportunities for influence.
  • Listen effectively: To understand different perspectives.
  • Communicate: At all levels, both orally and in written format.
  • Build effective relationships: Based on mutual trust.
  • Maintain emotional control: Not reacting to situations, absorbing, and analysing information and behaviours before considering how to respond.
  • Understand and respect: Different perspectives.
  • Involve and coalesce: People to understand key drivers and to identify common ground / objectives.
  • Offer and receive constructive challenge: Being open to feedback and responding in a positive way.
  • Map and manage stakeholders: Identifying power dynamics and lines of influence, understanding their motivations and needs.
  • Manage risk: Within the agreed risk appetite and control framework. 
  • Be emotionally intelligent: Recognise, understand, and use emotional responses effectively in the achievement of outcomes.


  • Accountable
  • Collaborative
  • Curious
  • Respectful
  • Open-minded
  • Adaptable and pragmatic
  • Act with integrity
  • Authentic
  • Self-aware
  • Empathetic
  • Resilient
  • Committed to continual learning.

Related roles

  • Executive and Senior Leadership
  • Chief Transformation Officer / Director of Transformation
  • Directors
  • Heads of Service
  • Portfolio Manager
  • Programme Manager
  • Project Manager
  • Product Manager
  • Scrum Master
  • Workstream Lead

Leadership and management – maturity index

The index attached below sets out the typical leadership and management characteristics demonstrated by councils at each stage of their transformation maturity.