Great Leadership Requires Great Timing

By: Eric Betts

Visionary leaders are needed in a time where change is demanded. The change that is required at this time of transition requires bold and fearless leadership. Developing a vision is the easy part. The difficult part is to lead others within an organization to buy into the vision. Human nature is often resistant to change due to fear of the unknown and coming out of their individual comfort zones. Practical change rarely occurs suddenly, but through gradual investment of time. The wheels of change roll slowly but eventually gain momentum over time.

One of the traits of successful leadership is the ability to make needed changes and adjustments at the proper time. Many good ideas die away and fail because of bad timing. Additionally, good timing involves more than getting others to buy in but also to understand the moods, the seasons, and the context of the situation. John Maxwell, renowned author, wrote about the 7 characteristics of leaders who succeed due to the exercise of good timing. The seven characteristics are as follows: understanding, maturity, confidence, decisiveness, experience, intuition, and preparation.

First, leaders who have good understanding as it relates to timing, have thorough mastery of the circumstances. They must have a firm grasp of the situation and its context, and familiarity with the problems that need to be addressed and those who will be called upon to address them. Unless understanding and mastery have not occurred one cannot be certain that the timing is right.

Secondly, leaders who have maturity as leaders can separate their emotions and personal ambitions aside for the good of the organization. It is often the case that fear of personal loss or a desire to manipulate situations for professional gain will cause a leader not to have the clarity of timing. When personal gain or advantage is taken out of the way, then the good of the organization can be clearly focused upon. Rising above greed and avarice is the maturity that is needed to get the timing right.

Thirdly, leaders must be seen as believing in their plan and its execution. This is the confidence trait. They must have assurance that their plan will bring positive results. This assurance by the leader cannot be underestimated; it impacts those who are being led. If leaders do not seem fully convinced, it is extremely difficult to persuade others. Confidence must be gained before leading a group into action. The timing is not good until the leader is able to speak with confidence and thus gain the confidence of others.

Fourthly, decisiveness is also key to timing. Indecisiveness in leadership creates indecisiveness in others. The trait of decisiveness is closely related to confidence. Decisiveness means that action is taken without second guessing. Without decisive and unwavering action, plans will unravel and others in the organization will feel lost and confused in the process.

Additionally, experience is a major factor in successful timing. A leader must question whether they have the personal and professional history to act knowing the pros and cons of what may or may not unfold. Maxwell suggests that if a leader does not have the personal background or biography as it relates to the action needed, they must solicit the wisdom of those who do. Relying upon the experience of others require humility and self-awareness on the part of the leader. Experience is indispensable when it comes to proper timing.

Moreover, good timing requires leaders with intuition. This means that they must feel the pulse of the organization and understand the mood of the organization. They must be able to rely upon more than data, facts, research, and information. Intuition, in this sense, is the ability to trust one’s gut or instincts. It is the ability to see beyond the surface of things and to act without proof or evidence. Sometimes proof, facts, and research will suggest that the timing is right, but one’s inner intuition may say, “Not now.” Then again, intuition may say, “Now is the time,” despite the experts and polling saying, “Not yet.” Many successful organizations fulfilled their vision because they questioned the research and trusted their intuition.

Finally, preparation is an essential ingredient to timing. Preparation means that the proper building blocks, training, and discussions have occurred in order to act. Preparation takes time. The leaders must ask the question, “Have I properly prepared the organization for the actions which are about to be taken.” If not, then the timing is not right.

Leaders must have the knowledge of not just how to perform an action and what it takes to perform it, but just as important is knowing when.

By: Eric Betts

Assistant Director, Curtis Coleman Center for Religious Studies and Ethics at Athens State University