When I’m looking for inspiration in leadership, John C. Maxwell is a reliable source. In his book, “Developing the Leaders Around You,” he offers an observation based on geese migration by fellow leadership expert, Tom Worsham. Here’s my version of his astute observation.
When geese fly south for the winter, they take up their signature ‘V’ formation. There’s a reason for this. It’s not just natural instinct. It’s the most efficient way to fly. Researchers note that as each bird flaps their wings, they lift the birds right behind them. Worsham says that the ‘V’ formation adds 71% greater flying range than if the birds flew alone.
When a goose falls out of formation, the rest of the group feels the loss as their resistance to move forward increases. And it’s not just the lead goose’s job to bear the brunt. When one bird gets tired, it falls into place in the back of the V where resistance is less and the flying is easier. Geese even from the back of the formation to encourage those in the front to keep up their speed.
If a goose is sick or wounded and needs to drop out, two other geese leave the formation with the injured bird and follow it down to protect it. There they stay until it has passed or healed enough to rejoin the group.
There’s a lot to unpack there, but the first thing that stands out to me is the ability to lead from wherever you are in the formation. We spend a lot of time as leaders in the spotlight, even if that is the hardest place to stand. And with every decision we make, we should be interested in lifting those that fall behind us.
When we work as a team, we get to the finish line faster. Leadership shouldn’t be a solitary pursuit. It should be a collaboration that involves everyone in an organization. If the leader can uplift their team, then the team performs more efficiently and everyone wins.
When a member of your team is struggling, a cohesive team will splinter to support that fallen member. Just because you’re not in the same place doesn’t mean that you have separate goals. And there’s no such thing as a weakest link in a flock of geese because they support each other always.
Nature has many lessons to teach us but geese are one of the greatest examples of a team working together toward a shared goal. Rely on your team, listen to their ideas, let them lead, and nurture them at all times.
You know that you’re going in the right direction when you can lead from anywhere in your team. Take these lessons to heart and soar with your team!