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When to Lead Is As Important As What to Do and Where to Go
WHEN THE RIGHT leader and the right moment come together, incredible things happen. Winston Churchill 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 he seizes it, will fulfill his mission—a mission for which he is uniquely qualified. In that moment he finds greatness. It is his finest hour.”
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.
To be an effective leader, you must overcome whatever keeps you from moving forward. Like Esther, you must learn that if you don’t seize the moment…
1. Your fate will be like that of the rest of the crowd.
Sometimes it’s easy to buy in to the notion that we are special and won’t have to take the risks of earlier generations. But that is a myth. If we don’t take risks, we can never expect to rise to the occasion. Mordecai reminded Esther that even though she was queen, she would fare no better than the rest of the Jews if she didn’t talk to the king.
2. God will replace you with someone else.
Mordecai motivated Esther by reminding her that God would accomplish His purposes even if she sat on the sidelines. It’s not necessarily the giftedness of the leader that prompts God’s blessing; it’s more often the leader’s willingness to move when and where He indicates.
3. You could lose more than an opportunity.
Mordecai reminded Esther that if she sat back and did nothing, she could lose more than a chance to do the right thing—she could lose her life. Although doing the right thing at the right time can seem risky, in the long run, leaders incur a greater risk by not taking action.
4. You could miss out on your mission in life.
Mordecai speculated that if Esther failed to act on behalf of her people, she might miss out on God’s purpose for her life. You will never accomplish your mission by remaining idle. What paralyzes you? Fear? Image? Regardless of what keeps you from pursuing an opportunity, you will succeed only by making one timely decision after another. There is no such thing as zero risk in leadership. But when you determine to seize a ripe opportunity despite the risk, you build momentum.
The Test of Timing
Make sure that each decision you make stands the test of timing. To help determine if it’s the right time to seize an opportunity, consider the following:
1. The Needs Around You
When you keep a finger on the pulse of your people’s basic needs, you will always find opportune times to lead.
Esther understood the needs of her people. She understood not only what they needed, but also what they needed from her. Get in touch with your people’s needs. Then make a point to continually ask: What is their mood? What do they desire to accomplish? What do they need from me, their leader?
2. The Opportunities Before You
You find ripe opportunities only by looking for them. Early in Esther’s leadership, Mordecai did much of the “spotting.” He let her know each time he discerned a small window of opportunity. Esther learned from Mordecai’s insight, and later discerned the opportune time to inform the king of Mordecai’s actions. When you take the time to spot golden opportunities, they start to stick out.
3. The Influencers Behind You
Esther came to value Mordecai’s opinion so much that she made sure he remained by her side throughout her reign. Before you make an important decision, ask your key influencers what they are feeling. Do they see the same opportunity you do? Are they discerning the same timing? When trying to discern the right time to take action, you must get feedback from your key people.
4. The Successes Under You
Experience provides practical advice, so take a minute to recall your successes. Have you done anything like this before? Is it reasonable to expect the same outcome from this decision?
Mordecai had to convince Esther about the right time to approach the king. Success in that incident gave her confidence for the future. Before long, Esther had gained so much influence with the king that he was asking her for advice.
5. The Courage Within You
Leadership requires courage—the courage to risk, to reach, and to put yourself on the line to seize an opportunity. The word courage comes from a French word that means “heart.” Taking advantage of an opportunity at the right time requires heart.
Esther demonstrated tremendous courage, time after time. It took great heart to stand before the king. Fear tried to get her to back down—and fear will also try to get the better of you. But good leaders understand that ripe opportunities never come without fear. So they move forward despite a moment of hesitation.
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