Leadership Lessons from Geese

Today my father shared a document with me, following up on a conversation we had about my Uncle’s retirement party. In turn, I’m sharing it with you. My uncle Blair was one of the presidents of Davey Tree overseeing much of their Canadian business. He got to his position by working hard and working smart, not by inheritance, luck or circumstance. Considering where he started and where he ended up, using the two free tools he had (work ethic and common sense), his retirement was appropriately celebrated by many. During the various speeches, the CEO of Davey Tree took his turn and handed over a framed document that Blair had given to him more than twenty years prior. In doing to, it was clear that the document had a significant impact on the CEO and like the giver himself, it was inspirational. After the celebration, my uncle reminded my father that he (my dad) had actually given the document to Blaire more than 20 years ago as well. These two men, my father and uncle, are two of the most inspirational people I’ve had in my life and my parents are those that I have to thank for my own work ethic, drive and common sense. The facts and lessons below are simple and powerful. Enjoy.

Leadership Lessons from Geese

Author: By Robert McNeish, former Assoc. Superintendent of Baltimore Public Schools, 1972

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.
Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.