Anticipatory Leadership and Time

In my last post we discussed the power of small wins in effecting significant and systemic change.  Small wins and trimtabs.  Timtabs can turn the QM2 but you have to strategically plan and have the right time to make the turn.  The point is anticipatory leadership.

Wayne Gretsky is an example of this.  Widely regarded as the best hockey player of all time, he fundamentally change the game.  He has been asked what made him as great as he was.  His response was:

“Most players skate to where the puck is.
I skate to where it is going to be.”

Leadership that can identify opportunities for small wins and take small wins to scale, in the 21st century, does so by anticipatory leadership and reading Time.  A Project Manager who leads – leads by anticipation – by understanding and anticipating Time.

Time in ancient greek had two forms:  Chronos and Kairos.  Chronos is linear, clock & calendar time.  Kairos is the fullness of time, the right time,  pregnant time.  Leaders understand Kairos, anticipating opportunities and taking small wins within Chronos to transformation in Kairos.

So the pace of small wins (timing and amount of time) is important.  So also is “reading” the time, anticipating and leading at the opportune time.

From a leadership perspective, to see a project simply within Chronos time is to miss the fullness of time.  My partners here at EPIC PM have talked about project failure.  Projects can be a failure in Chronos at any given moment but a leader who reads time (Kairos) can see small wins turn to success.  Consider several projects that at several points of Chronos time may have been considered failures but in Kairos are now seen as successes.

The American Revolution: Almost no battles were won by the colonial troops in the American Revolution.  Leaders and members of the Civil Rights Movement were jailed, beaten, denied access and killed.  In each of these cases the movements were a failure…. until they won.

The leadership of both these movements had a strategic vision and guiding set of principles that allowed them to persevere in the midst of perceived failure and in the end show that these failures were filled with small wins aligned with the vision and values of the movement and its leadership.  So having a strategic vision and clear values is important if “failures” are to be built into small wins that turn the tide.  In the case of the American Revolution this strategic vision can be seen in the casting of the Liberty Bell twenty years prior to the Declaration of Independence.

Vision and leadership of that vision are very important in managing and weaving failures and small wins together into transformative change.   And a key component of the type of leadership needed is the component of time and how that is viewed and understood by leadership.

So “reading” the time (Kairos), anticipating and leading at the opportune time to bring transformation to fruition is key to leadership and is connected to vision and values. Reading “time” and seeing ourselves in time and space is difficult and fraught with distractions.  But a lesson from Quantum physics can help.

Because all time (chronos) is related to motion, we are able to make the following statements for a “Rocket man” traveling through space:

If we send our Rocket Man out into space at 130,000m/sec and he tracks his time traveling and returns to Earth in 5 years time, 10 years will have passed Earth in relative time.
What would have been 10 years on Earth will have only been 5 years for the Rocket Man via the theory of relativity – time related to motion.

If he travels at 150,000 m/sec, 1 day for Rocket Man will be a 1000 years on Earth.

If he travels at 180,000 m/sec; the speed of light, time will stop for Rocket Man, everything will be “now.”

“Now” is the quintessentially existential moment; it is that moment that separates the past from the future and yet is not a part of time itself.  You cannot say that this second is “now” for by the time you say it, that second is no longer “now.”  You cannot say the next half-second is “now” or the next billionth of a second is “now.” You cannot even tell me what you are thinking “now”, because by the time you have a chance to reflect on it to tell me it is no longer “now.”  “Now” is the most real moment to us and yet does not exist in time.

Being in the “now” gives a leader a chance to escape the pressures of time (chronos and Kairos) and reflect.  Here is the chance for a truly free act – the ultimate small win – out of which change can be affected and to perceive failures and small wins not as random or micro but connected in a purposive way.  Out of these moments of “now” a leader can “skate to where the puck is going to be.”

A Project Manager, who is also an EPIC leader (Empowering, Preparing, Inspiring an Connecting), leads small wins, like a timtab, by operating in chronos and reading the opportune time (Kairos) through reflecting in the “now.”

Next post we will look at a framework for leading project teams by an EPIC rubric that addresses the whole person.