How Leaders Navigate an Uncertain World

leadership Feb 28, 2019
The trip ahead

Leaders help people navigate an uncertain world. They can see the trip ahead and predict hazards that might arise. That is what inspires people to follow their vision.

John C. Maxwell recognizes the importance of navigation in leadership. The Law of Navigation is one of “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” in his book.

Navigation skills

Where do leaders gain these awesome navigation skills? They gain them the same way any sea captain does. They lead the ship over calm and stormy seas. The experiences they gain are vital, but that’s not where they gain their vision. Their vision comes from what happens after the boat reaches the harbour.

Great leaders think back and evaluate their performance. Often when we are in the middle of the sea of real-life experience, we get carried away by the moment. The learning comes later when the boat has been docked and we have time to think about what happened.

Reflective thinking

John C. Maxwell calls this reflective thinking. He says, “When you reflect, you are able to put an experience into perspective… reflective thinking enables you to distance yourself from the intense emotions of particularly good or bad experiences and see them with fresh eyes.”

When you take the time to consider both good and bad experiences, you gain a truer perspective. Going forward, you can act with emotional integrity and have confidence in your decisions. Having a clearer picture brings value to everyone. You become a leader with strong navigation skills. Throughout your life, you continue to improve and grow. You help others do the same.

Leaders are often engaged in the enthusiastic pursuit of forward motion. In short, they get things done, and that is important. But they also recognize the importance of taking a pause to reflect on opportunities and challenges.

Pausing to reflect

Here are a few tips to help you make the discipline of reflective thinking a part of your life:

  • Set aside time every week for reflective thinking. We routinely set aside time every year to review our performance and envision new goals. Great leaders recognize that this is not enough. For those annual reviews to be productive, they need to be founded on a regular practice of self-reflection.
  • Keep an open mind and be non-judgemental. It helps to imagine that your experiences happened to someone else. Imagine that you are a wise and helpful observer. You want to approach your experience with the combined mindset of a kind mentor and a clear-eyed evaluator. Don’t limit the possibilities and face shortcomings head on. Boldly, ask yourself what you could have done differently. When something goes well, ask yourself why.
  • Welcome ideas from colleagues. After you’ve engaged in self-reflection, open the reflective circle to include others. Not only will you gain a wider range of good ideas, you will also role model an essential skill. Business cultures that encourage reflective thinking and open sharing of ideas continue to innovate and improve. These are vital advantages in today’s economy.
  • Share insights and learning with the whole organization. Leadership is about sharing your ideas and vision. People respect a leader who openly examines what happens within their organization, looks for ways of improving, and shares those goals.

“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” -Vince Lombardi

Call to Action
  1. Set aside time this week for reflective thinking.
  2. Open the reflective circle to include colleagues.
  3. Share what you learn with the organization as a whole.


The best is yet to come. It starts with you.

Your friends,
The UpCloseTeam