Five Powerful Leadership Lessons from…Geese
December 3, 2020
If you’ve ever seen a flock of geese flying overhead, you’ve probably noticed their unique “V” formation. It turns out, that the inherent nature of geese in flight has a lot to teach us about leadership, connection and teamwork.
READ ON for five ways geese teach us how to show up, share vulnerability, take the lead, and care for ourselves and each other at work.
Fact #1: As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying together in one “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% more momentum than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson: There’s power in unity when a group of people are 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.
Fact #2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly recognizes this and moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
Lesson: When one team member is struggling and not showing up as a team player, there’s a real risk of morale and productivity issues for the whole team. Quickly address your concerns by inviting your team member into a collaborative dialogue and revisiting the teams’ vision, values and goals. Explain how they contribute and why their role matters to the rest of the team. Find new opportunities to re-engage them.
Fact #3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies into the leadership point position.
Lesson: It builds trust and confidence when team members take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. Like geese, a team is interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique talents. By sharing responsibility and accountability, we develop stronger, more connected teams.
Fact #4: Geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed (this is my favorite geese fact!).
Lesson: When’s the last time you gave a shout out or “honk” to your team? In teams where there is consistent encouragement and recognition, productivity is much greater. 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.
Fact #5: When a goose gets sick or wounded, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to support, assist and protect. They stay until the goose dies or can fly again. Then, they launch a new formation or catch up with the flock.
Lesson: 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.
Patterns in nature can teach us 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?
LEARN MORE about how to strengthen your team, build your leadership skills and cultivate connection by checking out our TEAM BUILDING page.
“Lessons from Geese” was transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network and is based on the work of Milton Olson.