What We Can Learn From Geese?


Dr. Tim Elmore shares lessons we can learn about team building from geese.

I believe there are fundamental leadership lessons we humans can learn from nature. They’re everywhere, yet we often fail to heed them. Over a period of three days, I’m doing a series on the tutorials we gain about leadership from birds. Yes, you read that correctly. If you care about leading effectively, there are some fundamental practices we must learn to implement that eagles, geese, owls and ostriches demonstrate. Today, we look at geese.

What We Can Learn From Geese

You may have read about these birds in the past because there is so much to learn from them about leading a team. What I think we learn most, however, are lessons in support and accountability. May I remind you…

  • Geese stick together. They fly in formation, which provides 71% greater lift for the flock verses flying alone. The community actually helps everyone progress.
  • When one of the geese drop behind, other geese close the gap but leave a spot for their delayed comrade in the formation. They don’t lose their individuality.
  • When the leader of the formation grows weary, he drops back, and others fill the lead spot. It is the toughest role, as the front goose suffers the strongest headwinds.
  • If one goose is hit or falls to the ground, two others go down with him until he dies or recovers and is able to rejoin the formation again. One for all, and all for one.
  • Finally, if you listen, you will hear the geese honking behind the leader. Those who study geese tell us this isn’t criticism…it is the honk of encouragement from those who follow. They all seem to know a leader does better with a little support.

Wow. If only humans could learn to do this.

At Growing Leaders, we are making our best attempt. Years ago, I decided I wanted our nonprofit to be a source of encouragement, not only for educators and youth workers but also for our small team in the office. So we learned the strengths (thanks to the StrengthsFinder test), the Love Languages, the passions and the temperament of each of our staff and affirm those facets regularly. In fact, we assign projects based on who individuals are. We offer regular “shout outs” on Mondays at our Stand Up meetings and Lunch and Learn periods. Notes of encouragement are almost a daily practice among team members. Gifts are given often, and tears are shed when team members move away. Depending on the project, we actually take turns leading.

And I love to watch those team members fly.

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