Chronos Leaders and Kairos Leaders-Core Competencies

Earlier this week I wrote a post on the differences between those who are Chronos leaders and those who are Kairos leaders.  Today I will take this concept a step further and give some more definition to both concepts.  In addition, I’ll also explore the concept that all leaders are never just one or the other.  In fact, the best leaders know when to “flex” and go from Chronos to Kairos.  Understanding the difference and knowing when to switch is the key element.

Chronos is about leadership that is more sequential, more systemic, and having the attributes of a chronos leader are of great importance.  Here are a few descriptive words to identify the prototypical chronos leader:

  • tactical in approach
  • goal oriented
  • systemic
  • process oriented
  • structured

When I see these attributes I also could coin the word manager as well as leader for this individual.  Over recent years I have gotten the impression that many have devalued management versus leadership and I am here to say that management is just as important as leadership, even more important, depending upon the situation.

Here are times when a chronos leader, or a leader with chronos skills, is appropriate:

  • project oriented work where there is a known method for accomplishment
  • “steady state” operations where a breakthrough is not currently needed or sought
  • crisis situations where bringing stability to the team is essential

Kairos leaders, or those with kairos skills, are essential when change is needed or innovation is critical.  Kairos is about finding or identifying that essential or unique time for something to occur and kairos leaders are adept at using their intuitive skills and ability to identify and act at just the right time.

Here are a few words I would use to identify the Kairos leader:

  • intuitive
  • creative
  • flexible
  • change oriented
  • innovative

Kairos leaders, or those with kairos skills, are needed, even critical in situations like those listed below:

  • organizations are “stuck” and in need of innovation
  • the “old ways” are no longer working and new ways of getting things done are being sought
  • vision is essential and “what got us here” is no longer “what will take us there”

One of the key ingredients that great leaders have is their ability to utilize either Chronos or Kairos skills when the situation presents itself.  A great leader can understand where he or she is, where they need to go, and what skills are needed to get there.  I could share many stories about how great leaders have shifted gears from Chronos to Kairos in order to get over the hump, get past the current obstacle, in order to be successful.  The key learning for today is that great leaders are never always chronos or kairos, but they have the capability to be both.

I’ll be back next week to explore more fully how to develop your chronos and kairos skills and attributes.