In John Maxwell’s classic best seller, ’The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’ the fourth law is the law of process. This states:

Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.

 ship navigation

I’m a dreamer. I love to live in the world of possibility and potential. Unfortunately that can also get me into trouble as it is so easy for me to not take into account all the practical details and preparations that need to be taken into consideration. (If you familiar the Myers Briggs personality scale then I am an ENFJ).

An embarrassing example of that is when I went driving on the motorway to visit a friend and had not bothered to check the route on the map. I knew he lived North of London somewhere and so took a sign stating the North for several miles before realising I had not properly charted my course. My foolishness meant that I had to back track several miles!

To turn a vision into reality requires the skill of carefully and realistically thinking through the pathway and resources needed along with what could be the potential obstacles on the way.

As someone has succinctly put it, failing to plan means you are planning to fail.

So how do the best leaders chart their course?

According to Maxwell:

1. Draw on past experience.

Experience per se is not the best teacher, rather it is evaluated experience. There is a world of difference between 30 years of experience and 1 year of experience repeated 30 times.

2. Examine the conditions before making commitments.

I can have a great vision in my head, but if it is going to have a possibility of being achieved, I need to be realistic about the context I am in. No matter how much you learn from the past, it will never tell you all you need to know for the present.

3. Listen to what others have to say.

The world is far to complex to rely on just yourself. No matter how good a leader you think you are, I can guarantee that you will not have all the answers. Having said that, it is also vital to ensure that those who you listen to have the wisdom and insight to provide meaningful advice. They may be sincere and well meaning, but is what they are saying truly wise?

4. Ensure what you conclude represents both fact and faith.

It’s great to be determined about the vision in your heart, but there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Jim Collins in his classic book Good to Great, talks of the Stockdale Paradox: ‘You must retain faith that you will prevail and you must also confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.’

To summarise, John Maxwell gives a helpful acrostic to PLAN AHEAD:

Predetermine a course of action.

Lay out your goals

Adjust your priorities

Notify key personnel

Allow time for acceptance

Head into action

Expect problems

Always point to the successes.

Daily review your plan.

But having said all that, one of my favourite pearls of wisdom on navigation and planning is from Dwight Eisenhower:

“I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

How does the law of navigation apply to your life? What can you do to ensure that you can navigate the right course for your plans and goals?

Please feel free to comment below.

(The other leadership laws we have looked at so far are: the law of the lid, the importance of influence and the law of process.)