Kutz leadership book distills ancient wisdom

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Dr. Matthew Kutz is a living reminder that we should never underestimate the power of daydreaming, or of following our curiosity wherever it leads. For Kutz, a professor of athletic training in Bowling Green State University’s School of Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies, following up on his musings about what constitutes leadership skills has won him Honorable Mention in an international competition for books on leadership and led to his being invited to other countries to share his philosophy.

His book, “Contextual Intelligence: Smart Leadership for a Constantly Changing World,” was named tops in the innovation and cutting-edge perspective category by the University of San Diego’s Department of Leadership Studies. The awards were announced at the International Leadership Association's Global Conference in Montreal in October.

Which is ironic, Kutz notes, since the concepts he identifies are not new and are in fact almost universally recognized. But the way he has conceptualized and organized them into usable components has, as proponent Procter & Gamble calls it, the “it factor,” and has made the book the go-to guide for such world-class organizations as Procter & Gamble, ProMedica, AirTel, and for executives of other business and civic groups.

“It’s been a whirlwind for me,” Kutz said.

The wisdom expressed by “contextual intelligence” is perhaps what sets his apart from other leadership guides, Kutz speculated. As he was quantifying and naming the familiar qualities we tend to associate with leadership, he kept coming back to a set of characteristics with no defined name, but which are referred to as far back as the Old Testament, in a description of one of the 12 tribes of Israel as “having such a knowledge of the times to know what Israel should do,” Kutz said.

“I eventually came to call this quality of knowing what to do with the information you have ‘contextual intelligence,’” he said. “It really resonates with people because it’s a knowledge we all have in our gut but just didn’t have the language to articulate it.”

He discussed his beliefs recently in an invited lecture at the Smurfit Graduate School of Business at University College of Dublin, in Ireland, and before the Rwandan

Parliament during his Fulbright Scholar stay in that country.

Early on, before the book was published, Kutz began serving as a speaker to area organizations. Since then, he has developed his thoughts into a seminar that he has presented to numerous groups, produced a “white paper” for Procter and Gamble to use for its employees, and finally formally produced the book.

In the process he has fleshed out his original idea to include an introduction to the core values of leadership; to what Kutz calls “3-D thinking” and 12 behaviors encompassing hindsight, insight and foresight to enable people to make better use of their experience; and action steps to develop leadership skills.

“People tell me it’s engaging and it’s usable knowledge,” he said.

He encourages people to “scratch their itches” and pursue their mind’s meanderings.  “We have our best ideas when we’re not being paid to have them,” Kutz said. “When we get into that state of daydreaming the lines blur and time goes away and we can access our experiences in a different way, what I call ‘keeping those files open.” Jung referred to it as ‘synchronicity,’ learning to apply meaning to unrelated experiences.”

For those more concrete thinkers, “Contextual Intelligence” offers a checklist and action steps. “It resonates across the spectrum of personality types,” Kutz said.

The popularity of his leadership guide came as a complete surprise, he said. It really began earlier in his career, when he acted on his curiosity and conducted some research. He had been thinking about the idea of success and how it could be defined.

“Success is a relative term,” he said. “There’s technical competency, which entails having skills that are idiosyncratic to a specific industry or job, but are there generic things, soft skills that could translate from one field to another? Thinking about a championship coach, we can say he or she is successful because of winning games, but I began to wonder if there were leadership skills that were transferrable and, if so, what were they?”

In 2003-04, after doing a lot of reading, he assembled a panel of experts and asked them to identify the skills they felt were necessary for effective leadership, which resulted in a list of 48 skills. He then asked a group of leaders, mostly in the health care industry, to review those and say which they agreed with. The list included such traits as ambition, initiative, assertiveness, strategic planning ability, and communication skills.

Kutz then presented the resulting list to a group of workers to see which they agreed were important and actually helped in the job.

Next he employed statisticians to do a “factor analysis” on the traits to cluster them into similar groups.

“I wrote an academic paper about it that was published in The Leadership Review and moved on.”

Fast forward a few years, when Kutz was unexpectedly contacted by a representative from Procter & Gamble, asking him to come to Cincinnati to speak to a group of company executives. Despite Kutz’s protests that he was not really a “thought leader” or expert, the company insisted he come, and “I talked for four hours in their boardroom and they loved every minute of it.”

Much later, during his Fulbright stay in Rwanda, Kutz was facilitating a Sunday School class that happened to include a number of influential people, including the CEO of AirTel, the third-largest telecommunications company in the world, who arranged for Kutz to speak on contextual intelligence before the Rwandan Parliament.

Best-selling author Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, named by Harvard Business Review a Thinkers50 Award winner said of “Contextual Intelligence,”  “[Dr. Kutz] is a brilliant student of leadership and management and knows what works effectively in these arenas. He teaches his readers straightforward principles and elevates them to a higher plain. Brilliant!”