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Leadership Lessons from The Geese

Posted June 14, 2022

Category: Leadership

Leadership Lessons from The Geese

“The role of the leader is to know how to guide others; using and developing skills that will motivate their people to follow them. Authentic leaders engage their team, generate movement and create a space where ordinary people achieve extraordinary results.”

World of Business Ideas, United Kingdom

by Dr. Tim Glaid

Introduction

On a clear day, when one can enjoy all of God’s beauty and wonders, it is not uncommon to see a flock of geese flying in a “V” formation.  Have you ever wondered why they fly in such a formation?  Is it instinct?  Is it nature’s way?  And / or does the formation of the geese really indicate the leadership characteristics embraced in accomplishing their travel and distance goals?

It turns out the inherent nature of geese in flight can teach us much about leadership, communications, and teamwork. Geese are intriguing creatures and while considered pests in certain situations, they also have an incredibly strong sense of family and group loyalty. Probably one of the most phenomenal geese facts is that their desire to return to their birthplace every year is so strong, they will often fly up to 3,000 miles to get there.

Over the years, studies have shown there are many leadership lessons one can learn from the geese.  Included in this monthly blog article are seven leadership lessons derived from the study of the geese.  References include passages from the Power Resource Center (Denver, CO), and the AJ Recruitment Company (West Yorkshire, UK).

Seven Life and Leaderships Lessons Learned From Geese

  1. Geese fly together, they share a common goal and direction
    Geese fly in a perfect V formation. Studies have shown that flying in this way and using this kind of “teamwork” adds 71% more flying range for the geese than if they flew on their own. This is because as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an ‘uplift’ that reduces air friction for the birds that follow.

The lesson – people who share a common goal and direction can get where they are going much faster and much more efficiently, because they benefit from the momentum of the group. There is power in unity when a group of people is working toward a shared goal. Great teams recognize and leverage the strengths of each individual, which enables them to accomplish much more than if they were working alone.

  1. Geese stay in formation
    Whenever a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly tries to get back in formation. The formation not only makes it easier for the birds to fly, but it increases the flock’s overall visibility, as well as their power to be seen.

The lesson – once part of a good team, stay together and work together. Synergy cannot be created by a single person working in isolation, so it is important to stick together. A sense of community emerges from a willingness to work together as a team. Not only is it more efficient – but together you have better visibility of your surroundings and common goals. When one team member is struggling and not showing up as a team player, there is a real risk of morale and productivity issues for the whole team. Quickly address concerns by inviting team members into a collaborative dialogue and revisiting the teams’ vision, values and goals. Explain how they each contribute and why individual roles matter to the rest of the team. Find new opportunities to re-engage anyone not feeling part of the team.

  1. Geese rotate roles, they encourage the leader and empower others to lead
    For the lead goose in the formation, ‘drag’ is high. When the lead goose in the formation tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose takes its place. The lead goose then immediately feels the advantage of lifting power from the bird immediately in front of it.

The lesson – it is important to share the load amongst team members. Admit when help is needed. Also work to empower others us to take the lead as well. Everyone has different skills and capabilities, and sharing the load gives others a chance to shine. Expecting one person to take on all the work is unrealistic; people work better when interdependent with one another. It builds trust and confidence when team members take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing the leadership roles. Like geese, a team is interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities, and unique talents. By sharing responsibility and accountability, stronger, more connected teams are developed.

  1. Geese are noisy birds; they recognize and support each other
    There are a number of theories suggesting why geese honk between them. One is that they honk to encourage each other. Another theory is that the honking is used to communicate with each goose in the formation.

The lesson – In groups where there is encouragement and recognition, the productivity is greater. In a fast-paced working environment, remembering to provide recognition and encouragement towards each other (including the leaders) is vital to keep teams motivated and achieving their goals. The power of encouragement, i.e. to give someone support, confidence, or hope, is the quality of “honking” that creates the culture of connection every team desires.

  1. Leave no goose behind; they stand by their flock in good times and bad
    When a goose gets sick or wounded, two other geese drop out of formation and then follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with the goose until it either dies or is able to fly again. Then they launch back up with another formation or catch up with their flock.

The lesson – stand by each other in difficult times. It is easy to always be part of winning teams; but when things get difficult and people are facing challenges, that is when your relevance as a teammate comes to the forefront. The very best teams mirror the instinctive behaviors of geese and stand by each other in difficult times, looking out for one another and caring deeply about each other’s well-being.

  1. Geese maintain priorities, they stay committed to the team, their core values and purpose
    The geese migration routes do not vary. They use the same route year after year, even when flock members change.

The lesson – stay true to your team’s core values and purpose. Strategies, tactics, and products may change in order for the organization to remain agile, but great teams always stick to their core values and preserve them with pride.

  1. Geese are disruptive
    Geese often seem unflustered as they meander along the side of a busy road, however, they are most likely uncomfortable about being surrounded by large and noisy vehicles.

The lesson – disruption means getting a bit uncomfortable. Those who disrupt, challenge themselves, by setting and achieving goals.  They often come out of their comfort zone and stretch themselves to think differently.

Conclusion

Patterns in nature can teach a great deal about authentic leadership and connection. What it requires is mindfulness and paying attention. Go for a walk and look around – what insights can you find in nature that you want to emulate as a leader within your organization?

From the study of the geese, we learn to build up, not tear down; encourage, not discourage; lift, not pull down.  By emulating the habits of the geese, we can share in the joy of reaching common goals and embracing the mission of the organization with up to 71% more productivity, as compared to attempting to perform individually, and often in isolation.

Lead on!