Thursday, April 17, 2008

Great Leaders Value Good Timing

Reggie McNeal has this to say about that:

"Timing is very significant in spiritual leadership. Indeed, timing played a major role in shaping Jesus' ministry and death. Not only would Jesus not go to the cross for the wrong reasons. He didn't go until it was the right time ("Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father" [John 13:1; NIV]).

"Great leaders understand the importance of timing, specifically when it comes to making decisions. There are right times to consider issues and right times to make moves. Conversely, even the right issue tackled at the wrong time faces certain defeat.

"There is no formula for great timing. It is part instinct, part intuition, part paying attention to surroundings, part prayer life, and all of the above. But it is not guesswork. Leaders who have a good sense of timing seem very wired into their situations while, at the same time, wired into God for a perspective that transcends just what the leader and his or her advisers can see.

"Leaders adept at timing know how to read audiences and situations. They have practiced this over the years, testing out their hunches and intuitions. They have learned how to monitor their own internal sensors and when to pay attention to the voices around them and the voice within. Leaders with great timing know how to test the water, sniff the wind, and commit just enough to gauge reaction before committing it all. They risk, but they do not gamble.

"The pastor of a large urban church defied conventional wisdom: he consolidated the number of worship services to just one when the congregation moved into freshly renovated space. After a year of being dislocated from their worship center, he felt the church's sense of community would be well served by being together. The spirit of the services went sky high. The atmosphere for the next months was electric. Four months later he announced a move back to multiple services. He wanted to do it before people's new routines became set. Both calls were made by a savvy leader who is a pro at understanding timing in leadership.

"Sometimes the leader is ready to make a decision, but other people need time to catch up.

"Leigh knew that her ministry role was coming to an end in the organization she had joined six years earlier. She was not distressed with her current assignment; she simply felt called to another city to become a part of a ministry there. Yet she knew that timing was going to be important. For two years she prayed about when to leave. Every time she felt the urge to announce her departure, she resisted it. She discerned that though she was ready to move on, some facets of her world were not yet completed, either in the organization she was leaving or in something God was preparing for her. Leigh's decision to hold off was confirmed when an unforeseen crisis emerged that she was uniquely qualified to handle. After the crisis, Leigh sensed that the timing was now right for her to resign and move. When she did, she almost immediately discovered a group of people who had only recently begun to pray for God to send someone with Leigh's technical skills to launch their new ministry. The timing was perfect—God's and Leigh's.

"How have you observed the importance of timing in your leadership? How do you know when the time is right to implement a big decision?"

Excerpted from, Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders by Reggie McNeal (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2006).

Reggie McNeal is the missional leadership specialist for Leadership Network of Dallas, Texas.