The Law of Navigation is the fourth of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. It states that anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.
In 1911, two groups of explorers set out on a mission to be the first in history to reach the South Pole.
One group was led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the other group by Robert F. Scott, a British Naval Officer. The former obeyed the Law of navigation, the latter, though experienced, violated the law and you can guess who made history.
Here is how each lead-explorer navigated for their team and what you can learn from them as you navigate for your team:
|Plan||Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen||British Explorer Robert F. Scott|
|Mode of Transportation||Studied the methods of the Eskimos to determine that their best course of action is to transport all equipment and supplies by dogsled||Used motorized sledges and ponies. The motors on the sledges stopped working only five days from the trip; all the ponies were killed because of frigid temperature|
|Team||Chose expert skiers and dog handlers when recruiting his team.||Made a last minute decision to take long a fifth man, even though they had prepared enough supplies for only four|
|Workload||The dogs did most of the work as the group traveled, this affords both the dogs and the men plenty of time for daily rest||The ponies didn’t fare well, the team members ended up hauling 200 pounds sledges|
|Supplies||Located and stocked supply depots along all the intended routes||Supply depots were inadequately stocked, too far apart, and often poorly marked. Team was always low on food and water|
|Equipment and Gears||Equipped his people with the best gear possible||Clothes were so poorly designed, all of the men developed frostbite, everyone became snow-blind because of the inadequate goggles Scott had supplied|
|Worst Problems Experienced||An infected tooth that one man had to have extracted||Team members starved and suffered from Scurvy, a team member sank into a stupor and died, another member purposely walked out into a blizzard|
|Results||Beat Scott’s team to the South Pole by more than a month||Found the Norwegian flag flapping on arriving the South Pole, Scott and his team died on along the way on their return trip—still 150 miles from their base|
Though Mr. Scott was a courageous man with a previous experience, he lacked leadership ability and thus, violated the law of navigation.
How to apply the Law of Navigation to your leadership
Before they take their team on a journey, here are what great navigators do to lead by the law of navigation
- See the whole trip in your mind before leaving the dock
- Have a vision for getting to the destination
- Understand what it will take to get there
- Know what your team will need to be successful
- Recognize obstacles long before the appear on the horizon
- Draw on past experience: every past success and failure comes with valuable information and wisdom, learn from them.
- Examine the conditions before making commitments: Count the cost before making commitments for yourself and for others
- Listen to what others have to say: you don’t have all the answers, get ideas from other sources. Before Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole, he had learned from a group of Native Americans about warm clothing and Arctic survival techniques
- Make sure your conclusions represent both faith and fact: you need to have faith but also be realistic by not ignoring the facts, good navigators know how to balance both
If the leaders can’t navigate the people through rough waters, he is liable to sink the ship” — John C. Maxwell
How to plan ahead
Action points to implement the Law of Navigation
To be a good navigator:
- Make it a regular practice to reflect on your positive and negative experiences.
- For some major project or task that you are currently responsible for, draw on your past experience, hold intentional conversations with experts and team members to gather ideas, and examine current conditions that could impact the success of your efforts.
- If you are a person of faith, start gathering facts and stats from trusted sources. If you are person who always want to see the numbers, start developing your intuition.
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