I recently had a conversation with Gavin Cornelius, founder of the Young Entrepreneurs Society (international is in there too at the end) and we ended up discussing context at length, and just how important it truly is.
Gavin is a fan of the Myers Briggs personality test, and so are many business people. It seems great, it was developed based on psychology, measures multiple dimensions of personality and I find it almost completely useless.
Here's the problem, it ignores context. So let's examine why that could possibly matter when it comes to personality types, since surely we are who we are no matter what right?
Actually no. The Stanford Prison Experiment is possibly the most well known example of this, essentially concluding that the behaviors of an individual have more to do with their situation than their personal characteristics. This is also the same with the Milgram Experiment.
The important thing to get is that what we would normally think of as a self contained identity, the behaviors and concepts of 'who we are' are in a constant state of flux depending on our situation. In other words, our personalities are a emergent manifestation of our context, the way that lighting is simply the discharge of electricity, a wave is a movement in a medium, and wind is the equalization of pressure in the air. Looking at it another way, our context is inseparable from us, we are it and it is us, the way that there is no wind without air, the two are interconnected.
This is really important for mastery of self and mastery of others. Sure each individual has different dispositions, which is to say they require different specific situations to register differently on the 'dimensions of personality' but there is almost always some conceivable way for someone to get seemingly contradictory traits to manifest in the same individual.
I can use myself as an example. In many circumstances people find me to be introverted, even to the point of anti social hostility, and others know me as an outgoing assertive person. The main factor is to whom I am talking. I find some people fun to talk to, and conversation flows easily, others I can hardly relate to at all, and as such I feel no need to try and force a conversation.
If you are running an organization it is key to understand and use this to your advantage. Find out the dispositions of your team, and place them in such a way as to encourage the characteristics you deem most desirable.
Learn to feel the context as an extension of yourself and those around you. Feel it extending invisibly around you and learn to move it, alter it to the most useful configuration until what you want comes about of it's own volition, like a sailboat being pulled by the wind.
This goes the same for yourself as well. If circumstance dictates our persona and behavior then the only thing left is to master circumstance.