Chapter XVIII Esther (A Sense Of Timing)
Written by Ray Fairman   
This may sound a bit out of character for a leader but part of leading and leading well is understanding when to lead and when not to lead. So let's look at a leader who understood that concept shall we? Our next lesson in leadership comes from Esther 4:6-17.

First we may need to refresh your memory about just who Esther was. Esther appears in the Bible as a woman of deep faith, courage and patriotism, ultimately willing to risk her life for her adoptive father, Mordecai, and the Jewish people. Scripture portrays her as a woman raised up as an instrument in the hand of God to avert the destruction of the Jewish people, and to afford them protection and forward their wealth and peace in their captivity. Four years after Queen Vashti was executed, King Ahasuerus then chose Esther to be his wife and Queen. Esther was advanced for this role by Mordecai, her cousin and guardian. Shortly after Esther became Queen, Mordecai overheard a plot to assassinate the King. He promptly told Esther of the plot, who warned her husband of the threat. An investigation was made and the conspirators were swiftly arrested and executed. As such, the King ordered Mordecai's deed recorded in the history. Now lets get into our lesson.

Shall we start by looking at why Esther is considered an Old Testament leader who not only knew how to lead but also knew when to lead? Knowing when to take action and lead is always as important as knowing what to do and where you are going. Winston Churchill once said "there comes a special moment in everyone's life, a moment for which that person was truly born ...that special opportunity, when he seizes it ...will be his finest hour."

So I will call Esther's contribution to our study of leadership, the Sense of Timing. If you desire to be an effective leader your sense of timing will need to be honed to a fine edge as it will often prove to be a critical factor toward achieving the successful completion of your mission or vision. Being able to read the handwriting on the wall as the saying goes and knowing just what to do may not always prove to be enough. Sometimes only the right action applied at exactly the right time will provide the desired outcome; anything else will be disastrous and will extract too high a price from those involved. Let's look at some things that might happen if you fail to act in accordance with the dictates of this lesson.

First you need to remember that win, lose or draw your fate, as the commander, will be the same as that of your subordinate leaders and followers. We sometimes forget or fail to realize completely that when armies lose battles and wars, so do their Generals. Leaders are always as affected by the risks they take as are those who follow them. Mordecai needed to remind Esther of that fact. Even though she was a queen, she would still fare no better than the rest of the Jews if she didn't act and speak with the King at precisely the appropriate time.

Another thing to keep in mind is that any leader, who fails to respond to God's timely calling, can be replaced by Him with someone else. Mordecai moreover reminded Esther that God would accomplish his purposes with or without her involvement. A leader's willingness to act when God speaks is always a key factor, so be sure who you're listening to, and don't always use "I'll pray about it" cliché as a way of putting off your decision. How would you feel if every time you told your son to take out the trash, wash the car, the dishes, mow the lawn or do his homework, he responded with "I need time to pray about it." Remember partial obedience is more properly spelled, "DISOBEDIENCE."

If you fail to respond within a proper time period, you could lose more than just an opportunity. I have frequently heard people say that a wrong decision beats no decision, and sometimes that may in fact be true. But, making a right decision at the right time, though it may seem to be risky, will certainly avoid the greater risk of merely standing by and accepting the consequences, which I might add are often the same for making no decision as they are for making a wrong decision. The difference is usually measured in your display of courage under fire and your willingness to accept the responsibility for your ACTIONS, not your INACTION.

Poor timing might also cause you to miss out on your real mission in life. Churchill also once said that key moment in your life that he spoke of is a fleeting one; God will still use you, but, will he ever use you as effectively as he might have if you had grown that little bit more during your prime opportunity. Always keep in mind that the fear of taking risks does not come from God, the peace and strength to make tough decisions does.  Remember it is Satan and not Christ that wants you bear the weight of fear and guilt. God removed, through Christ, your guilt and shame once and for all at Calvary. When you feel the burden of fear, guilt or sin pressing down on you, turn your thoughts to the one who removed all those burdens on the cross and as he directed all of us to do, cast your cares upon him all ye who are heavy laden. Leadership is often a lonely task, but it is something that you need not shoulder alone.

Avoiding decisions because of their difficulty or high risk factor will never solve your dilemma. You will only succeed as a leader by making one timely decision after another. There is not now nor will there ever be, such a thing as a zero risk decision, especially for a person in a position of leadership. Your successful decisions will eventually build on each other and reinforce another leadership principle called momentum.

Now let me give you five tests of timing you can use as a reference when you are faced with any decision making opportunity.

First consider the real needs that exist around you. Keep a clear picture of what your followers honestly need and what they think they need and expect from you and remember that a man's perception is for him, reality. Always try to be aware of their mood, vision and capabilities. Keeping a close watch on the mission, manpower, motivation and morale of your unit or organization will insure that you are more readily prepared to face the decision making process than the leader who ignores such critical factors.

Your second consideration should be the prioritization of the opportunities that exist before you. All the peaches on the tree don't ripen at the same time. Keep your eyes open for the appropriate opportunity and act when the peach begins to blush. The "helter-skelter" approach of tackling too many opportunities at one time is guaranteed to result in none of the projects being accomplished in a worthy manner.

A third consideration must be the things influencing you to act. You always need to test your motivation as it can be easily corrupted by power, popularity and success, so rely on the trusted inner circle of wise and competent staff that you have chosen, trained and matured. They should not be expected to make the decisions for you, but to provide you with sage advice and additional points of view. Feedback and perspective are always essential ingredients in any recipe for success.

Your fourth consideration must be your past successes. Experience and knowledge really are a great team of instructors. When you are building a reputation through your successes, knowledge and experience are growing right along with you. As your leadership improves you will be the one being sought after for advice, just as the king eventually sought out Esther for advice. Why is this? I think it is due to the growing realization that gained experience or acquired knowledge alone are nowhere near as effective independently as they are when the reservoirs of both are emptied into the same raging river called wisdom.

The fifth thing to consider is your own courage. You must have the physical and moral courage to act and that will require you to risk and to reach. You must, if you are to become a leader, reach beyond your fears and risk many things for the sake of others. This will be an extremely difficult assignment unless you have a real heartfelt desire to lead.

Esther demonstrated her ability to act with courage and in a timely manner, even though she was troubled by fear and hesitation. With God's help she stepped forward in spite of her doubts and was recorded as a Biblical leader with qualities worthy of emulation.

Before moving on you might want to take time to reread the Old Testament Book of Esther and put yourself in her place, would you have answered the challenge as she did?

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