Not long ago, I came across the following story:
A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted,
"Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."
The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."
"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist. "I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?"
"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is - I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip."
The woman below responded, "You must be in Management."
"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"
"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."
Ha, ha. While this story has quite a bit of humor, it points out something very important...Leaders have to know the way!
A good leader is also a good navigator. The not only are at the wheel, but they know the final destination. If you are already a good navigator, great. If you are not or would like to improve, consider the following three guidelines.
Navigators think ahead: Navigators take the time to plan and prepare. They know the end goal, the analyze the current reality, they consider the conditions and they make a plan. They take on the responsibility that thinking ahead for others is their job. Leroy Eims, author of Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be writes, "A leaders is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do."
Navigators make course corrections: Did you know that a guided missile is off course more often that it is on course. It's target is programmed and it starts on course, but then gets off course, makes course corrections, returns to course, gets off course, makes corrections and returns to course. Some say that they are off course upwards of 98% of the time. Yet, they hit their target almost 100% of the time. Why, because of course corrections. Navigators are constantly looking at conditions and comparing it to their final destination. When they realize they are off course, they don't despair, they don't give up or shout "we failed," rather they take the time to realign (change what needs to be changed) and get back onto course.
Navigators stay with the people: Good navigators don't simply give directions and they walk away. Rather they are like the customer service agents at Lowes, who will drop everything and take you exactly where that part is that you so desperately need. They don't just give an isle number. Navigators come along side others and leads them on a journey together.
In short, a good leader is a good navigator, who in the words of John C Maxwell, "knows the way, goes the way and shows the way."