Lessons from a goose

Have you ever seen a flock of geese flying in a large V formation? The goose and the way that they organize themselves can teach us a lot about leadership, teams and organisations.

The reason that geese always fly in a V formation is that as each goose flaps its wings it creates uplift for the goose that is following behind. By flying in a V formation the whole flock adds about 70% greater flying range than if each goose flew separately and alone. The learning for organisations is to develop a clear common vision and mission that everyone understands and is fully behind. This enables everyone to move forward in the same direction with similar objectives and it makes the development of the organization a lot quicker and easier because everyone is moving forward together.

If a goose falls out of the formation it immediately feels the resistance and drag of flying alone. The goose will quickly move back into the formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front. Hence you normally see a perfect V in a flock of geese. If we all have as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. It also means that that we are willing to accept help from others and give our help when others need it.

Taking on the role of lead goose is tough as it is this goose that gets no benefit of uplift. This lead role is not assigned to the strongest or toughest goose; they ensure that there is a regular change of leadership. When the lead goose gets tired it moves back into the formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the others and another goose takes the lead. The geese recognise their interdependence and they take it in turns to share the hard tasks and the leadership. It is important for teams to remember that they are interdependent on each others skills, capabilities, and unique arrangements of talent and resources. Sharing the leadership and hard tasks will enable a team to achieve so much more.

Have you heard the loud honk of the goose? The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. Whilst honking on the office might be considered a bit extreme and could get you strange looks, in groups where there is ongoing encouragement the production is much greater.

Finally when a goose gets sick or is wounded it is never left alone. Two geese will drop out of the formation and follow it down to protect it. They will stay with it until it is ready to fly again or dies. They will then fly off with a V formation and catch up with the flock. It is important in organisations for people to stand by each other in good times and even more so in difficult times. That way over an extended period of time everyone will succeed.

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