Monday, 1 December 2008


Yesterday afternoon, when I was in the garden with my two daughters, Jenny drew our attention to a sight that has always make me stop what I'm doing and gaze in amazement at the skies above. I am referring to the inspiring sight that is a skein of geese. Seeing the geese in their familiar 'V' formation reminded me of a lecture delivered by Dr Richard Holloway at last Summer's international conference in Edinburgh on School Leadership, in which he suggested that humans had much to learn from nature as far as good examples of leadership is concerned. I hadn't really thought about his analogy, and what as leaders we can learn from geese until yesterday.

The first lesson is: work as a team. Geese migrate long distances flying in V-formation. This formation results in reduced wind resistance, which allows the whole flock to add around 70 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. Geese find out quickly that it pays handsomely to be team players. Second, wise leadership: when the leader at the apex of the V gets tired, it is relieved by another goose. Leaders rotate, empower, delegate, and even step down when it's in the best interest of the team. How often do we see this taking place among organisational leaders? Wise leaders ensure that their followers are well trained and developed in order to achieve true empowerment and smooth succession processes. Third, humane behaviour: if a goose drops to the ground when it gets hurt or sick, two of its colleagues go down with it to take care of it until it either gets healthier or dies. In this fast-paced and competitive age, how often do we see managers going out of their way to help colleagues who are in trouble? I am in no doubt that in organisations, morale, productivity, and loyalty increase when employees look after each other and are treated humanely.

1 comment:

Mark Walker said...

Thanks Donald some powerful images. I have acting teacher leadership positions for 12 months and one of the challenges is to support the X and Y generation of teachers take up leadership positions and have the baby boomer experts support them. A recent ASCD article has challenged my thinking about teacher leadership working best when the norms of teaching - autonomy, egalitarianism and seniority persist. I wonder if smooth processes are sometimes possible until the "elephant" has been put on the table publically [another animal image]. Respect and care must be two values in schools that live in our words when we are tested as above. Flying in formation can be a challenge. Thanks for your images which have started some thinking.