Why do geese fly in a V? Because it would be too hard to fly in an S!
Did you ever notice that when geese migrate that sometimes one side of their V formation is longer than the other? Do you know why that is? Because there are more geese on that side.
As I watched geese fly overhead on Sunday morning, I couldn’t help but notice some facts about them as they took flight. So I did some research. Then, I thought about how that translates into lessons of leadership.
Fact One: 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 begin their own formation or join another in order to catch up to the flock.
Lesson: We need to stand by one another (SERVE OTHERS WELL) through difficult times as well as when we are strong. Each member of the team is important; each member should know they would be supported in a time of need. Supporting one another breeds loyalty and compassion. It also just makes good sense.
Fact Two: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position. Being the lead goose is tiring as there is no energy savings for the lead bird.
Lesson: Leadership is taxing. Forward momentum (MOVING FORWARD) can be maintained by sharing the hard tasks. As leaders, we need to be sure there are others following who have the skills, capabilities and talents to step into the leadership role (TAKE RESPONSIBILITY) when needed. If we mentor them, they will be there to take over when we are absent or needed elsewhere. It also means that, as leaders, we need to know when to step aside, take some time to rejuvenate ourselves and trust in the abilities of others. Finally, it points out that all of us need to learn to be good followers as we are both leaders and followers at different times and points in the journey. It is important for team members to remember they are interdependent on each other to complete the mission.
Fact Three: Geese honk when they are flying in formation to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. The goose in front does very little honking. Instead, it is concentrating on flying and navigating the course.
Lesson: Everyone needs encouragement. Productivity increases when people are encouraged (ATTITUDE IS EVERTYTHING) . It is a leader’s job to navigate the course and work through the hard tasks. As followers, we need to ensure that what we say is encouraging, not complaints and gripes. Leaders should also remember that encouragement (honking) has helped them in their career and followers need encouragement too.
Fact Four: 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 will stay in formation with those who are headed in the same direction we want to go (RESULTS MATTER). Going your own way can be painful and bumpy or at the very least, it’s a drag.
Fact Five: Geese are one of several large birds that migrate in groups and fly in a V-formation. By flying in V-formation, the whole flock adds 72 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. Researchers have found that when birds were flying in formation, their heart rates were lower than when they were flying solo. They also spent more time gliding, which saves energy.
Lesson: Birds fly in formation to save energy. People who share a common goal and destination (SELL MORE) can work together to make that journey easier. Working as a team is also less stressful than trying to do all the work alone.
How are you leading your team? Are you willing to allow others to take control when the winds in your face are too strong? Do you have to make sure that everyone knows that you are the boss? Do you need a title to be a leader? Do you know how to lead from the middle?
Set the direction, communicate the goals, encourage your team to soar, follow up, understand that there will be resistance, focus on your objective, determine to be the best, Serve others well, Take responsibility, Attitude is everything, Results matter, Sell more.
These are the leadership lessons of the goose. Whether this was the intent of that group of men, from what is now the USAF 11th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, who chose their emblem over 64 years ago to represent their flying squadrons or whether they were enamored by the huge flocks of gray geese that fly as many as 3,000 miles in one migration season and make this area their home, I may never know.
What I do know is that geese can certainly show us unity of purpose, shared resolve and action — still important leadership lessons today. So, the next time you see geese flying above you, take a moment to remind yourself just how smart they are – and what we can learn from them.
Wing Trivia: On this day in 1964, buffalo wings we’re serve up for the first time at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY.