In yesterday’s post on the three mandates of leadership, I shared a personal story of my early days, still working as a grunt in a factory, how I was able to leverage influence, (leadership is measured by influence) to not only get a promotion and lighter work duty, but to answer the call of leadership to solve a problem with a successful result.
When people think of leadership, they think of CEO’s and executives, department heads and company presidents, even the speakers on stage and on television, but the truth is that anyone can be a leader, no matter where they are or what they do.
Even in a factory…
Because of my work ethic and having experience in many of the job roles in the factory I used the law of influence to help the people around me as well as myself, and experienced the law of the lid first hand (though I didn’t take the promotion, just an easier job).
I also experienced the law of process first hand. You see it took time to build influence and it took work, a lot of work to position myself to answer the call should it arise.
Reading the story it seems really short and sweet, but the truth is that between that event and when I first started, there were 8 months in between in which I worked hard and long hours filling different roles and learning.
As time passed I build influence, and when the time arose, line supervisors and even the superintendent was asking me for input and ideas. I didn’t have the title or the pay to reflect a leadership role, but the influence I was able to build and leverage showed that I was a leader, and supervisors and higher ups did recognize it.
So whether you’re in the trenches as a grunt like I was, or a regular employee at a company somewhere, you can be a leader, but it requires something else – prudent planning.
The Law of Navigation: Prudence in Planning
The Law of Navigation states: Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.
The law of navigation reminds me of something my father used to teach me. If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. He said it all the time when I was growing up, especially when I did something half-heartedly and didn’t think stuff through.
He never lectured. He’d just say that statement again and again. He was talking about prudence in planning, which is the law of navigation.
Hind sight is 20/20 so I didn’t realize at the time that my experiences were all about leadership, but now that I’m dedicated to it, I can look back through my life and see all of my successes and failures, at least in some way, was related to leadership.
Traits of Navigation
Using my story again there are a few important things to note that fall under the law of navigation and I want to quickly highlight them.
1. Navigator’s see the trip ahead – listen, when I told my superintendent that I could do the job in one hour it was because I could see ahead to the end result. I had worked there for months and worked every job required to get it done, and I could see ahead.
But I also knew what the conditions were ahead of time.
2. Navigators examine the conditions before making commitments – In a way, my work experience was the planning that was needed. I knew what had to be done, in what order it had to be done, where everything was and where they needed to be, I knew where the kinks were that needed to be worked out, and where we could save time.
3. Navigator’s balance optimism and reality – When I first said an hour, the line behind me started to grumble. Understanding their point of view I could see where they expected to stay very late, but I was optimistic because I knew how fast they could work, and how much faster they could work with some adjustments to the conditions.
I understood the reality of the situation, that the work would take at least two hours if nothing changed, but I knew what was possible given the situation and some adjustments.
4. Navigator’s listen to others – Up to this point, the praise is one way, but the truth is that while I had a plan, it was made better by the input of the others. I had to listen to them and adjust to make sure they were happy with the change of pace. There was no way that I could have done it without them.
5. Navigator’s lead through the tough waters – There’s this thing that happens when something new starts. At first, everyone is on board, happy, optimistic and rearing to go, but after a little time goes by, some people will fall back and loose sight of the objective. Or things don’t go as planned and they want to jump ship.
As the person leading the effort, I had to continually adjust and meet the needs of everyone on the line to keep things moving forward, and thankfully I had the help of the line supervisor to back to me up every step of the way.
6. Navigator’s alleviates fears and personal objections, both in themselves and in those that follow – In anything new, doubts crept in, people were doing new things and certainly there was a level of discomfort.
When people questioned what I was doing, I had to answer those questions, make sure people were following through and re-assure them, essentially navigate them through the tough part. Once they saw the end, when the fog cleared and they saw land, motivation took over on it’s own.
In The Words of My Father
Looking back over the experiences in my life and being able to see the mistakes I’ve made, and the successes, both are learning opportunities and if I can pass on anything it would be the words of my father…
If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.
The fourth law of leadership, the law of navigation…
Thank you for taking the time to read this incredibly long post. I appreciate you and I’ll see you tomorrow!
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