The Law of Timing

Published 9:52 pm Thursday, January 18, 2018

When my husband proposed to me, he had already considered months in advance when the perfect time would be to get engaged. We had been dating for a little more than two years, and I was starting my senior year of nursing school. It was perfect timing. If he would have asked sooner, it might have distracted me from my earlier studies. Had he asked me later, I would have been starting to worry if a proposal was coming at all.

In leadership, timing is extremely important. It makes the difference between whether a leader’s decision-making and execution are perceived as good or bad. For instance, you may recall in 2008 there was a little scandal that broke out surrounding AIG. Most news outlets reported that less than a week after the government bailed out AIG for $85 billion, company executives left for a week-long trip to a luxurious California resort and spa. Talk about bad timing!

In John Maxwell’s “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” the Law of Timing states: “When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go.” When we really pay attention, and use the Law of Timing, we experience more success and less failure.


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John provides us four possible outcomes regarding a leader’s timing:

  • The wrong action at the wrong time leads to disaster. During the long and costly Vietnam war, protestors expressed loudly that continuing the war was the wrong action at the wrong time. Nineteen years after its start, with the loss of more than 58,000 Americans and a failure to resolve the conflict, history would prove the protestors correct.
  • The right action at the wrong time brings resistance. One of the most controversial leadership decisions made recently was the deployment of the USNS Comfort to Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria. Certainly, deploying the ship was the right action given the circumstances, but the real issue has been over the timing of when the ship was deployed. Amid all the issues surrounding the Comfort, once it arrived two weeks after the hurricane hit, there were reports of resistance on the part of local hospital administrators and patients themselves to use the ship’s services.
  • The wrong action at the right time is a mistake. Do you remember a little group called the Beatles? In 1962, Decca records, after hearing the Beatles audition, decided to pass on the group. Decca record executives felt the days of signing groups were done. However, the Beatles went on to get a recording contract with George Martin and Parlophone. It was the right time, all right. Beatlemania hit in 1963.
  • The right action at the right time results in success. Whether you are a Facebook junkie or not, no one can dispute that Mark Zuckerberg came up with the right idea at the right time. Leading the charge into what we now call social media, he launched Facebook in 2004 and by the end of December 2005, there were more than 6 million users. Well played Mark, well played.

As you go through your week, make a conscious effort to be aware of your timing when it comes to leading others. Is it time to launch out with that new idea you came up with, or would a different time make more sense? And, are you sure the next move is the right move? Remember, it’s all in the timing!

Elaine is a John Maxwell certified coach, teacher, trainer, and speaker. She is the founder of Transforming Love Ministries, LLC and a board member of the Christian Business Coalition of Hampton Roads. Replies can be sent to