The Law of Navigation is about how leaders must have forethought and preparation while leading a team. The great leadership guru, John Maxwell, wrote about this law of leadership in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

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

Leading as a Navigator

Have you ever sailed a boat? Been on a sailboat? Or watched a movie with a ship? (I’m sure you’ve seen Pirates of Caribbean!) If so, then you know that the captain of the ship is required to have forethought as he prepares the ship and crew for the voyage. They have to look ahead for obstacles, waves, storms, and other ships. They must chart their course and steer the ship – or they are headed for a shipwreck!

The main picture for this post was taken on a sailboat in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the way from St. Thomas to St. John. This was the only time I have ever taken the “helm” and steered a sailboat (of that size). I didn’t steer it long, but they had to coach me on how to turn the ship so we could tack against the wind. I had to look ahead to plot my navigation. 

(The image to the right was not the same ship, but was taken on St. John on the same trip.)

St. John Sailboat. Taken by Daniel David.

Forethought and Preparation

This law of leadership is mostly about forethought and preparation. To lead a team (or a family, class or small group) well, you must develop a plan for reaching the destination – before you begin the journey. Followers need leaders able to effectively navigate for them. You need to visualize the path and put the necessary people and resources in place to have the best chance at successfully accomplishing the goal. 

Skills of a Navigator

  • Navigators draw on past experience :: recognize and reflect on weaknesses and failures. Put systems or the right people in place to “plug” your weaknesses – and alter your course to avoid past mistakes and failures.
  • Navigators examine the conditions before making commitments :: know the climate and road ahead.
  • Navigators listen to what others have to say :: get ideas from many sources.
  • Navigators make sure that their conclusions represent both faith and fact :: “You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end and you must also confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”

Navigators PLAN AHEAD

John Maxwell shares a strategy that he developed while pastoring a church and confronted with the challenge of building a new sanctuary. In the end, he was able to get 98% of the church on board with a big budget building due to his forethought, planning and navigation. Below is an acrostic for “Plan Ahead.” 

(I loved this artistic display of junk on a pier on St. John. Somebody clearly “planned ahead” with how to arrange their stuff!)

St. John Pier Junk. Taken by Daniel David.


  • 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

Navigator Application Questions:

  1. Do you make it a regular practice to reflect on your positive and negative experiences?
  2. Navigating leaders do their homework. What is a task or project that would benefit from some forethought and planning before you get started?
  3. Take action on navigating before… (insert your next opportunity to lead).

More on Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

John Maxwel Resources

  • His Website:
  • The book:
  • A Maxwell coach I know: Home of the Leaders Factor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.