The Right Approach: Leadership 101—The Law of Timing

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Good leadership always makes a difference; unfortunately, so does bad leadership. This leadership truth continues as we will be talking about law 19 of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

“The Law of Timing: When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go.” — John Maxwell

Timing is Everything
How often have we heard this throughout our lives? Too often to count I would suggest. We don’t have to look very far to find examples of both good and bad timing. In the context of leadership, there are really only four outcomes for any decision and the first three are a result of poor timing.

1. Wrong action at the wrong time = disaster.
This is the worst-case scenario of the first three outcomes that will result in nothing good: missed goals, cost increases, and the perception of your leadership skills will suffer. It doesn’t matter whether the timing was too early or too late you can’t expect a great result.

2. Right action at the wrong time = resistance.
Taking the right action at the wrong time may be unsuccessful because the people you lead can become resistant. Taking the right action at the wrong time will undermine a leader’s relationship and trust with their team.

3. Wrong action at the right time = mistake.
Natural entrepreneurs tend to have a strong sense of timing, intuitively knowing when to seize an opportunity. They also have a propensity for risk, which sometimes results in mistakes in their actions. However, great leaders know when to cut their losses. Timing is everything, but the right actions are equally important.

Poor Timing Example: Nintendo Virtual Boy
In 1995, 20 years before virtual reality (VR) became mainstream and a must-have technology for gamers, Nintendo launched the first VR headset for the consumer market. Nintendo had done their research and went into this venture with eyes wide open. Their previous attempt at VR was the Private Eye, a 3D, stereoscopic, head-tracking prototype whose technology would eventually be employed in the Virtual Boy. But limitations in existing technology resulted in an awkward looking stationary device, which kind of defeats the purpose of VR. Given its limitations and the $179.95 price tag (1995 dollars) the device was a total flop; a case of a poor timing with a technology ahead of its time. Technology has caught up with the concept and companies like Oculus have propelled VR into an affordable experience and standard technology of gamers.

The fourth outcome is the only one that results in a win:

4. Right action at the right time leads to success.
Great things happen when the right action and the right timing come together. Goals are achieved, profits increase, and growth is sustained. Great leaders have a track record of transforming organizations by taking the right action at the right time during critical situations.

Good Timing Example: iPod and iTunes
Do the names “Rio” or “MPMan” sound familiar? Probably not, unless you owned one (I owned a Rio). Prior to 2001, they were part of the first MP3 players to hit the market. Back then you either had to rip a CD or download bootlegged music files to get them on the player, and capacity was only about 20 songs. Where others may have seen a crowded market, Apple realized this as a market opportunity and introduced the iPod in 2001 with Steve Job’s jaw-dropping statement at the product launch: “1,000 songs in your pocket.” The other genius timing move was iTunes; the first “legit” service to seamlessly purchase, download, and load music on the iPod. At a time when space was at a premium, the iPod simplified access to music and data storage and truly revolutionized how we purchase and listen to music.

As it turns out, timing is everything.

Follow these guidelines and The Law of Timing and you will truly be surprised at the results. Focus on enhancing your leadership skills to lead by example and the results will be epic.

Steve Williams is president of The Right Approach Consulting. He is also an independent certified coach, trainer, and speaker with the John Maxwell team.

This column originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine.


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