#19 The Law of Timing
From the book “The 21 Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell
#19 The Law of Timing - When to Lead Is As Important As What to Do and Where to Go
It was a volatile time in the nation’s history. Everyone was worn out from the war in Vietnam and the disgrace of Watergate. The people were discouraged and demoralized. And they were especially skeptical of anyone who had any connection with Washington government. While campaigning for office, this future president, who had never served in Washington, said about himself, “I have been accused of being an outsider. I plead guilty. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans…are also outsiders.” That person was Jimmy Carter.
THE TIMING WAS RIGHT FOR AN OUTSIDER
When you understand the Law of Timing, you see why Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States in 1976. His life and career was also characterized as one well-timed move after another. He graduated from the Naval Academy and intended to spend his career in the Navy, but when his father unexpectedly died he returned to Georgia to take over the family business. Within a few short years Carter became a respected businessman and leader in the community.
In 1962, the Georgia political system was corrupt and crumbling so Carter decided to make a run for the Georgia Senate. He recognized for the first time having someone who was not part of the old system had a chance of being elected to the office. The incumbents intimidated voters and falsified voting records. As a result, Carter lost the primary election but refused to quit the fight. Instead, he fought the results with the Superior court to have the voting process reviewed. The results were overturned and Carter won the election. In 1970, he successfully ran for Governor. Once again, he recognized the timing for a relative newcomer to challenge the established political machine.
NON-LEADERS CAN’T ALWAYS SEE IT
Having served just 1 term in the Georgia Senate and 1 term as the state’s Governor, Carter decided to run for President of the United States. He was initially ignored by the media, however, he believed there was a unique opportunity for an outsider to run for the presidency.
The reaction of people across the nation was painfully indifferent. Carter’s biographer Peter G. Bourne reported, “Most journalists seemed not to grasp the profound social and political currents affecting the country. The impact of Vietnam, Watergate, the change of race relations in the South, and especially the profound opening up of the political process seemed largely ignored, and candidates were examined only within the context of the old political paradigm.”
The Law of Timing showed that it was the right time for an outsider to run. On January 20, 1977, James Earl Carter was inaugurated as thirty-ninth President of the United States.
Unfortunately, timing was not always on Carter’s side. During his first term he faced double-digit inflation, record-high oil prices, and skyrocket mortgage rates. He had numerous foreign policy problems including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran hostage crisis with a botched rescue attempt. The Law of Timing is a double-edged sword. Just as it served to elect Carter President in 1976, it worked against him four years later.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Great leaders recognize that when to lead is as important as what to do and where to go. Every time a leader makes a move, there are really only four that can result:
- THE WRONG ACTION AT THE WRONG TIME LEADS TO DISASTER
- THE RIGHT ACTION AT THE WRONG TIME BRINGS RESISTANCE
- THE WRONG ACTION AT THE RIGHT TIME IS A MISTAKE
- THE RIGHT ACTION AT THE RIGHT TIME RESULTS IN SUCCESS
When the right leader and the right timing come together, incredible things happen.
If a leader repeatedly shows poor judgment, even in little things, people start to think that having them as the leader is the real mistake.
Winston Churchill’s address to Parliament on November, 30, 1954, reflected on his role as Great Britain’s leader; “I have never accepted what many people have kindly said—namely that I inspired the nation. Their will was resolute and remorseless, and as it proved, unconquerable. It fell to me to express it. It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”
Churchill’s contribution really had nothing to do with luck, bit it had a lot to do with timing. Another time he described it like this: “There comes a special moment in everyone’s life, a moment for which that person was born. That special opportunity, when seized, will fulfill the mission—a mission for which the leader is uniquely qualified. In that moment, the leader finds greatness. It is their finest hour.”
THE CRUCIBLE OF WAR DISPLAYS THE LAW OF TIMING
One of the reasons war shows the Law of Timing so clearly is that the consequences are so dramatic and immediate. If you look back at any major battle, you’ll be able to see the critical importance of timing.
TIMING MISSED, OPPORTUNITY GONE
Failure to seize on opportunities when the time is right leads to missed opportunities.
Reading a situation and knowing what to do are not enough to make you succeed in leadership. Only the right action at the right time will bring success. Anything else exacts a high price. That’s the Law of Timing.
Here is a link to this wonderful read. https://www.amazon.com/21-Irrefutable-Laws-Leadership-Anniversary/dp/0785288376
I hope this book provides you with guidance along your journey.