Two leaders may have the same skills, same resources, and even the same network of friends. And yet, one would be successful and the other one had to quit and do something else. What’s the difference? Most of the time it is a matter of timing. Whether it is in sports, music, stock market, or even in real estate and marketing; all the great leaders will tell you: Timing is everything.

That is why we need leaders who understand that great leadership starts with the why, because you always start with purpose. And then you formulate the how. This is when you start planning to bring vision into reality. Leadership classes have taught leaders how to set the foundation based on the why and formulate approaches around the how. But that’s not enough because great leaders know that we need to figure out the when. Because again, timing is everything.

MARK 2.18-22 (NIV)

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”


Fasting is good. Jesus never told his disciples not to fast. He had never ridicule John’s students and Pharisees for fasting. There is nothing wrong with fasting. It was just not the right time for Jesus’ students to fast because they should celebrate Jesus’ presence instead of fasting.

There is also nothing wrong with older wine – as long as we put it in old wineskin. Put a new wine in a new wineskin then you will ruin both wine and the skin. New wine is good. Old wine is also good. But put them in the wrong wineskin, then everything is ruined.

Jesus is trying to explain to his students that timing is everything. Just because a thing is good does not mean that it is the right thing at this time. There was a time appropriate to follow Moses and his teachings but the one greater than Moses and his law is here. The time has come to leave the old to the past and embrace the New Kingdom in Jesus. Jesus is the right thing for that time. In fact, we now know that Jesus is the right thing for any time.

But the Pharisees could never figure that out. They want to the old thing of the past. They do not know that time is changing. This is why they fail to embrace the moment; to embrace what Jesus has come to offer.

A leader must decide to do the right thing at the right time. It’s not enough that we do the right thing. It is not enough just to do the right thing the right way. Leaders must do the right thing at the right time. Timing is everything.


Knowing when is one of the most important essence of leadership. Great leaders must have great timing because we are the ones who decide when things happen. That’s right: leaders say when. Others may have ideas about the how, someone before you may have set the foundation of the why, but if you are in charge at this moment, you have the responsibility to say when.

We need to understand that in its most basic form, leadership is about transition. A leader’s job is to bring the team from one place to the next; from planning to execution, from surviving to thriving, from good to great, and so on. Leadership is about movement.

But as anyone who has ever driven in Jakarta would tell you, navigating Jakarta traffic requires more than just a good vehicle and knowing the routes; you better know when to leave the house. You leave during rush hours, a 5 kilometers ride in a nice car could turn into a couple of hours in hell on earth. You would not be able to move.

Again: Timing is everything. Knowing when to go is almost as important as where to go and how to get there. Remember: leaders get to say when. So we leaders better make sure that we always make the right decision when it comes to when.


So how do we know when is the right time? When should I say when? In order to have good timing, in order to master the art of saying when, we need to spend time. If you want to have good timing, then you need to spend some time.

First is you need to spend time with your people. Yes you are the one who say when but you better be sure that the team is ready. Now in a perfect world, everyone will be ready together on schedule so that everyone can make smooth transitions together. But we don’t leave in a perfect world. Some would be ready before others. When will these people be ready? Is it the time to motivate them or discipline them? Should we go according to plan or should we postpone things a few weeks? Are people ready to hear the new direction for the company? Yes we leaders are the ones who say when but unless we spend time with our people, we will only base our decisions on our own timetable.

Speaking of our own timetable, the next thing you need to do is spend time with yourself. You need to spend time to examine yourself: am I ready to say when? Am I ready to make the move now? What is this time in my life? Is it a time to plan some more or to execute right away? Should I spend time this week more with my friends and family or this is one of those special moments in life where I have to bunk down and grind into the late hours of the night? Remember, it is all about timing. The leader better be ready to say when for him or herself before saying when on behalf of the team.

Finally, if you’re a Christian of course, you need to spend time with God. Our God has time in his hand. He is the Alpha and Omega. He was, and is, and is to come. Not only we need to be sensitive to where we are, where our teams are, at this moment, as Christians we must learn to wait on God. God’s timing is impeccable. God is never late. If we spend time with God, we can learn to hear exactly when he wants us go. For Christian leaders, saying when is about knowing God’s when. And we know his perfect timing, if we spend time with him.