Leadership Lessons of the Geese

As I embark on this journey of writing my blog, I want to establish it as one that discusses topics affecting readers from every strata of today’s economic food chain. Leadership is a relationship; consequently, I believe leadership is not the bailiwick of the C-suite, but the bailiwick of any person who interacts with others.

I was recently in Saranac Lake, New York, enjoying everything that was on offer: the great views, the perfect weather, and, yes, a lot of quality rugby. I started to think about what the topic of this post should be, and I thought back to a discussion I had on the “Lessons of the Geese”. They’ve been attributed to several different people, so I am not sure who initially came up with them, but I first encountered these “lessons” during a Navy Leadership Development program I was selected for in 1995. 

The seven lessons (summarized) are:

1)      Teammates who share a common goal find it easier to accomplish their goals when working together. When flying in the V formation, the movement of each bird’s wings flapping provides additional lift, decreases drag, making it easier for the following bird to fly, which extends the range of the flock.

2)      Increased visibility to the big picture. Using the V Formation, each bird can see what is happening up in front.

3)      There are benefits to working as a team.  When birds fly outside of the flock, they encounter increased resistance and lose out on the benefits of flying with the group. Smart birds get with a flock heading in the direction they want to go.

4)      Take turns doing the hard work. The hard job is flying in the lead position.  Every so often, the lead bird falls to the back of the flock and another bird takes on the hard job. Sharing the hard jobs pays dividends for the team.

5)      Communication needs to be positive and encouraging.

6)      Teammates need to stand by each other in both good times and bad. When a bird falls out because it’s sick or injured, two birds “escort” that bird to the ground.  (The two “escort” birds will either latch onto another flock, or catch up with their original flock.)

7)      Stay committed to the long-term goals. Each year the flock makes the same migration, teaches the routes and associated skills to their young. Many things may change, but the flock sticks to its primary goals.

These lessons are not new. They do fall into the “obvious” or “duh” category. And while we like to look for the meaningful answer to our professional questions, just remember that the obvious answer isn’t always wrong. Sometimes, it’s exactly right.

So, how would your team benefit by implementing the “Lessons of the Geese”?