“Good leadership always makes a difference; unfortunately, so does bad leadership.” This leadership truth continues as we will be talking about the fourth and fifth of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
What does navigation have to do with leadership? As it turns out, quite a bit. Leadership is not about blindly following the leader as much as it is about the leader charting the proper course for his or her followers. Think of it this way: You’re sitting in a boat when suddenly you enter a monster storm. Who do you want as the captain?
- The skipper of the SS Minnow
- The Love Boat’s Captain Stubing
- The captain of the Titanic
- None of the above
“Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.” - John C. Maxwell
Followers need leaders who can effectively navigate for them; but navigation is not just about controlling the direction. Navigators see the big picture—the whole trip, if you will—before they leave the dock. They have a vision of how they will reach their destination, they understand what it will take to get there, they know who they’ll need on their team to be successful, and they recognize the obstacles long before they appear over the horizon.
The key to a leader becoming a great navigator is 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
The law of addition focuses on advancing others, not ourselves—remember “Servant Leadership” from the Law of Influence? Leadership is an act of service to others and the true leader focuses on creating value for others. The best place to serve is where we can add the most value to others. Leaders add value to others by valuing others and relating to what others value. True leaders ask, “How can I help you?” instead of “How can you help me?”
If we think back on the successes we have achieved, more times than not there was someone who influenced and inspired us in some way. Great leaders play an important role in the lives of those they lead, and this relationship is another example of what separates a manager from a leader. John Maxwell teaches us three simple truths on how to add value to others:
1. Truly value others.
I have had many mentors in my career who have believed in me even through my many mistakes in my journey from being a manager to a leader. These mentors had, and continue to have, a profound influence on the person I am today.
2. Make ourselves more valuable to others.
It took me a long time to learn that developing a strong bench strength is not only the path to success for my followers, but also for me. Until a manager learns to not be threatened by the talent in their team, they will never progress to being a leader.
3. Knowing and relating to what others value.
Early in my career I valued experience over education but eventually realized that to get the jobs I wanted and to eventually start my own company, my undergrad degree would not be enough, so I went back to university and earned my MBA. Years later, when I hired one the most talented “engineers” in the plastics industry, we had a career path discussion. He had very little advancement opportunity at his prior company because he did not have a college degree. Being able to relate to his aspirations, we developed a plan for him to get into an engineering program. He earned his BS, which led to a promotion about a year after graduating.
Trust is the foundation of leadership, and the minute a leader loses this they also lose their influence. Leaders cannot break trust with people and expect to keep influencing them. Some leaders (actually managers) use their power and influence to force people into doing what they want them to do. And while this may work in the short-term, this strategy always backfires as followers begin to lose respect and loyalty for the leader.
Character and integrity are big parts of trust and solid ground. John Maxwell compares trust to change in a leader’s pocket. Each time they make good leadership decisions, they earn more change, but each time they make poor decisions, they must pay out some of that change to the people. If leaders keep making poor decisions, they will end up without change in their pockets or, in other words, nobody will trust them any more as leaders.
Character earns respect. Without character it is very difficult to have respect for others and earn respect from your followers. Remember a manager does things right, a leader does the right thing. So how do leaders earn respect? By making sound decisions, admitting their mistakes, adding value to others, and putting others ahead of themselves.
Steve Williams is an independent certified coach, trainer and speaker with the John Maxwell team.
This column originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine.