As a follow-up to my post from the other day about "striking while the iron is hot" in regard to educating others, I wanted to discuss a little bit about opportunity.
Ancticipating that at some point, an opportunity will occur to implement your vision or educate others, good leaders plan for that moment, and await the timing to be right. If you present a great idea before the time is ripe, the message can get lost and your efforts will be in vain. It goes right back to my analogy of the home fire where taking that "educational moment" where the idea is fresh in everyones' minds to discuss smoke detectors is beneficial; on any other day, the public just tunes it out and adds the message in with the other things going on that day.
I read a pretty good deal on military strategy as a way of gaining insight into leadership. One of my favorite books is "Mastering the Art of War" by Thomas Cleary. A great passage in this text is in "The Way of the General", regarding the formation of opportunity. In it, Cleary translates from Zhuge Liang:
There are three avenues of opportunity: events, trends, and conditions. When opportunities occur through events but you are unable to respond, you are not smart. When opportunities become active through a trend and yet you can not make plans, you are not wise. When opportunities emerge through conditions but you cannot act on them, you are not bold. Those skilled in generalship always achieve their victories by taking advantage of opportunities.
As a leader, there are ideas that you may have that may be courageous or bold, but others consider a little "out there". That comes with the territory of having vision, believe me. But there is a great deal to be learned in this passage in regard to knowing what message you want to deliver, having it prepared, and shooting it out there when the timing is right. It's called effective communication.
Know that as a leader, you will be challenged with making changes that may not be popular or easy. But in light of that, if you have the chance to insure the timing is right, a skilled leader will make their presentation while people are emotionally engaged with the issue.
Don't forsake your opportunity to make beneficial change to your organization or you community by missing out when the stars are aligned. Be prepared in advance, know your subject, and sock it to them when the door opens. It might be your shining moment, and you certainly don't want to be left in the dust when the moment occurs.