Time Mastery: How Temporal Intelligence Will Make You a Stronger, More Effective Leader

Clemens’ fascination with temporal intelligence began when a client asked “Do you do anything on time management?” Having just read yet another research report showing little correlation between control over time and job performance, he quickly answered “No.”

Yet the question nagged at him. Surely, he thought, time must be at the core of leadership in ways not yet recognized or studied. Spurred on by reading Stephen Covey’s critique of conventional time management—that it “…strains relationships rather than building them, limits vision, and causes people to become rigid and inflexible”—he began to sense that he might be stumbling onto something truly new and exciting. Clemens called it “time mastery” and started to read everything he could about time, interviewed top executives, and spent four years doing extensive research.

The results amazed him. For successful leaders, time was a leadership opportunity, not a management problem. These “time masters” routinely seized the moment, accomplishing more in a day than ten ordinary mortals. Yet they seemed never to be in a hurry. They had lots of meetings, but did not live slavishly by their calendars. They didn’t organize every minute. They seemed to sense, as St. Augustine put it, that “…the world was ‘made with time’ and not ‘in time.’” For them, time was an ally, not an enemy. It was, he concluded, superior temporal intelligence—the capacity to conceive of time differently than most and to utilize it as a powerful leadership tool—that explained much of these time masters’ success.

In this presentation, Clemens’ audiences learn the six fundamental principles of time mastery—the tools of temporal intelligence. Bringing each principle alive with anecdotes and stories, he shows how it relates to their professional and their personal lives.

Principle 1 – Broaden Your Temporal Palette
Principle 2 – Build Continuity
Principle 3 – Set the Organizational Rhythm
Principle 4 – Scan for Temporal Turning Points
Principle 5 – Speed Up, Slow Down, or Stop
Principle 6 – Let Time Do Its Magic

Clemens’ goal in this presentation is to get audiences to discover that temporal intelligence is as important to leadership success as such long-heralded behaviors as empowering others, modeling the way, challenging the status quo and creating shared visions. Time—and timing—are essential inputs that determine the success or failure of everything from organization change efforts to breaking into new markets successfully. This uniquely human force also carries in its relentless DNA the power to drive radical change and transformation. He hopes that his presentation will be a call to action, one that awakens the audience’s interest in expanding the breadth of its temporal repertoire. And that, like the time masters he studied, they will begin their own quest—a journey that will enable them to truly understand time, not just measure it by a clock.

Broaden Your Temporal Palette
Most managers invest a great deal of energy focusing on the present: this quarter’s earnings, the project that’s due tomorrow, that next meeting. But time masters, Clemens discovered, live, and lead, “beyond the moment.” Like Dickens’ three time spirits in A Christmas Carol , they vow to “…live in the past, the Present, and the Future.” He describes leaders at computer giants Dell and Microsoft as well as defense giant Lockheed Martin as examples.

Build Continuity
Time masters don’t slice and dice every minute of the day, filling each line of their calendars with fragmented tasks and meetings. Their temporal realities are quite different. To them, leading is like making a film rather than taking a snapshot. They imagine time as a continuous flow; something that’s best represented by sand running through an old-fashioned hourglass or the single unending edge of a Möbius strip. That’s why the enterprises they lead are increasingly becoming cooperators, rather than competitors. From Continental Airlines to pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, Clemens describes how these time masters no longer see the marketplace simply as a “we/they” world. They see it as a continuous, seamless commercial community.

Set the Organizational Rhythm
If your leadership style was set to music, what rhythm would it be? A spirited allegro ? A laid-back adagio ? An insistent march? Like a composer or conductor, times masters sense—and then set—the right rhythm for their organizations and their customers. Clemens cites the extraordinary case of Spanish company Zara, whose sensitivity to its own—and its customers’—rhythms have established it as the world’s most successful “fashion on demand” apparel house. The lesson is that a leader—whether CEO, middle manager, or line foreman—is constantly providing temporal cues to those around her, signals that determine, for better or worse, an organization’s rhythm.

Scan the Horizon for Temporal Turning Points
Chronos is the Greek god of time. His symbol, the chronometer , is strapped to your wrist, telling you you’re late to your next meeting. But there is an entirely different kind of time. Malcolm Gladwell has called it a “tipping point.” Intel’s Andy Grove calls it a “strategic inflection point.” The Greeks called it Kairos , and built an entire philosophy on it. In any language and any era, kairotic moments occur when something big happens that changes everything. Time masters search for such kairotic moments by constantly scanning the temporal horizon, hoping to find those decisive moments and pivotal convergences that have the capacity to change everything.

Speed Up, Slow Down, or Stop
Time masters have discovered that time is not a constant. Rather, it is malleable; something they can shape and mold. Financial services giant Goldman Sachs seemed to sense this dimension of time when it ran a full-page ad in the world’s financial press. The copy read: “You’re on the accelerator. You’re on the brake. You’re looking behind. You’re thinking ahead. This is leading!” Clemens’ presentation challenges those tens of thousands of time managers who continue—no doubt unwittingly—to subscribe to Isaac Newton’s 17th century postulate of immutable time ticking reliably away in a clockwork universe. There is, he says, no universal time scale that is the same for all observers. He cites the example of Liz Claiborne chairman Paul Charron, who exhorted his executives to be less busy, to cherish white space on the calendars, and to slow down and think . And he describes the accelerating pace of Mobil Oil, whose Speedpass gets drivers in and out of gas stations as quickly as possible.

Let Time Do Its Magic
When organizations run into trouble, managers—understandably—seek to turn things around with definitive action. They hunker down. They tighten controls. They create more structure. They invoke urgency. And time becomes the enemy. Yet in these situations, time masters turn time into an ally. They nudge gently, and then allow teams to self-organize, to act like jazz groups in which the players adjust to each other in a complex, and seemingly chaotic, process. On occasion, they decide not to decide, realizing that there are times when the best thing to do is nothing. They know that evolution demonstrates that things actually improve over time; that systems in distress have the innate ability to self-organize and to heal, that time is truly magical.


Seminars & Keynotes: Corporate Seminars | John Clemens' Profile | Books | View a sample video