Not every follower can be a great leader. But every great leader is a great follower. “If you want to go fast, you go alone. If you want to go far, you go as a team” – African Proverb
The importance of teamwork and leadership can be largely learnt from the V Formation of the Geese. During the fall, thousands of geese fly out of the cold winter. They will take flight above the waters and form a V-Shape flying pattern, known as the V Formation. There will be one rotating goose at the centre of the leading pack and all the other geese will fly behind in two close lines. Wildlife scientists have done extensive research and studies to determine why geese fly in this V Formation and the results were intriguing.
1) When geese fly together, each goose provides additional lift and reduces air resistance for the trailing geese. This V Formation allows the geese to fly 70% further than an individual goose. Therefore, geese have discovered that by flying together, they spend lesser energy and shorter time to reach their goal.
The lesson that we can learn from this is that everyone in a team should be aligned towards a common goal. If one member decides to do everything alone, the member will require a great deal of time, effort and energy to reach the goal. But when everyone shares the common vision, goal and direction, tasks can be shared among members. Members should stay in formation and in unison towards the goal, while helping each other. This in turn creates synergy and enthusiasm which moves teams towards the goal faster and with lesser effort than an individual. Small effort, big results.
2) When the lead bird gets tired, it moves to the rear of the formation to capitalise on the lifting power of the bird in front of it. The new lead bird takes charge and leads the flock. This rotation happens frequently due to the long journey towards the eventual destination.
The lesson that we can learn from this is leaders share the responsibilities within the team and sometimes, different members are empowered to lead when called upon. A leader should model the way and inspire a shared vision within the team to move towards the common goal. Micro-management and over leading may cause burn out, disengagement and low motivation among members. Enabling others to act with proper guidance will help the members gain more confidence and have more field experience. Great leaders do not always have to lead; they can be great followers and empower the rest of the members with the relevant skills and knowledge to become better, if not great leaders.
3) Geese regularly make loud honking sounds when they are flying together. These sounds were done to communicate with the flock and encourage them to persevere on during the long journey. When one goose falls out due to sickness or being shot, two other geese follows it to help care for it till it either dies or is able to fly again. Thereafter, the geese form another formation to catch up with the front flock.
The lesson that we learn from this is many a times, things will not be smooth sailing. In organizational and teams setting, things will get VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Therefore, it is important to note that recognition and praise is duly given when members perform outstanding tasks or are able to get things moving towards the right direction. In many contexts, the lack of recognition regular open communication are some of the key factors in which a member feels unsatisfied and leaves a team, or worse still, leaves an organization. It is also common for members ‘efforts to go unnoticed in the busy and fast paced environment. Members should standby each other during the challenging times and the strong times. With praise, constant open communication, recognition and encouragement (encourage the heart); members will feel rejuvenated and motivated to achieve the common goal.
4) Geese never change their routes and usually follow the same route, year in and year out. Even when the flock members change, the young geese learn the route from their parents. When spring arrives, the geese would fly back to its original location where they were born for food and breeding.
The lesson that we can learn from this is to always stay true to the core values and purpose. In a team or an organization, members, products and strategies may change due to the demands of the market. But the core values and purpose separates a good team and a great team. It is easy and comfortable to always want to be a part of the winning team. But when members face challenging times (VUCA), grinding tasks and results together forges stronger bonds and higher commitments.
With the spirit of teamwork, regardless of any differences, members can meet the challenges and reach the goals much more efficiently. Time and tide waits for no men and women. Thus, it is imperative to adopt the lessons learnt from the geese to work together effectively towards achieve success as one team.
Written by Mugan TAYALAN (Facilitator)
on 3rd April 2017