John Maxwell’s Leadership Law #4: The Law of Navigation

By October 25, 2018 October 23rd, 2023 Articles on Leadership

Last Updated on October 23, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

If you’ve ever read tales of early expeditions to reach the South Pole, you’ll know that poor leadership isn’t just inconvenient—it can be deadly. In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell opens his chapter on the Law of Navigation by discussing the importance of controlling your direction rather than being controlled by it.

Maxwell quotes Leroy Eims, who says, “A leader sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do.” In his chapter on the Law of Navigation, John Maxwell delves into how this type of leadership can benefit your company.

a photo of the book cover of Laws of Leadership denoting Law #2What Is the Law of Navigation?

The Law of Navigation is about having a vision for your business and charting a course to get there. The larger the organization, Maxwell writes, the more critical this strategy is. It’s much easier to plan than to try to correct course midway down a particular path. To be a good leader, you must also be a good navigator.

Maxwell says, “First-rate navigators always have in mind that other people depend on them and their ability to chart a good course.” As the Law of Buy-In mentions, your people are willing to aim for your vision because they believe in you. You must uphold your end and be a leader they can rely on.

A good leader will draw on experience, examine the conditions before them, and make sure their decisions are based on evidence, not simply wishful thinking, before steering their team towards a common goal.

The key to good navigation is planning. Maxwell uses the acrostic PLAN AHEAD to enforce the main principles of the Law of Navigation:

  • 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 planning.

The Law of Navigation and Your Business

The first step towards successful navigation is looking to the past. Make it a habit to reflect on your successes and failures and note areas for improvement. It’s good to do this at least once a week, possibly in the form of a brainstorming session with your top management. Write down everything you’ve learned from this process.

Next, could you be sure to research before ever leading your company in a specific direction? Don’t just forge ahead blindly because you want to reach a goal—if you fail, you’re risking the success of your entire team. Ensure you listen even to the information you don’t want to hear before determining a course of action.

Finally, it’s essential to maintain a balance of facts and faith. All of the information in the world sometimes falls short in the face of a good gut feeling. Surround yourself with advisors who can listen to facts and faith to help you make the best decision for your company.


Making the Law of Navigation work for your business can mean the difference between success and failure. I encourage you to buy the book.  If you have questions about implementing these strategies in your company, fill out my contact form, and let’s meet on a video call.


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Dave Schoenbeck
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