Lessons from Geese: A Better Way to Lead

When it comes to leadership, we can draw inspiration from many places — even from nature. Take for instance the great northern geese, shrewd and wild birds with a lot to teach us.

Unity. A flock of great northern geese will fly thousands of miles in a perfect V formation. As each bird moves its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird that is following. It’s estimated that their formation flying is 70 percent more efficient than flying alone.

We prosper when we share a common direction and sense of community. We can get where we are going faster and better when we are traveling together and trusting each other forward than when we are traveling alone.

Interdependence. At a distance the flock appears to be guided by a single leader. But the lead bird does not in fact guide the formation. When the lead bird tires, it rotates back in the formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds in front.

Leadership is best shared. We can excel if we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go, accepting their help and giving ours. True leadership means interdependence.

Encouragement. Each flock finds its own unique rhythm and spirit. The pulsating sound of the huge flapping wings excites and energizes the entire formation; the geese enthusiastically honk from behind to encourage those in front to keep up their speed.

We need to make sure we are honking words of encouragement to each other. Encouragement is powerful: Groups where it is practiced are far more productive.

Loyalty. When a member of the flock becomes sick or wounded, two geese drop out of the formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again—then they soar off together to catch up with the flock.

We can find strength in standing by each other,  in strength and in difficulty.

Rejuvenation. In the northern hemisphere, geese fly south to spend the winter in a warmer climate.

Especially in the cold and darkness of winter, it’s important to remember to get away, to refresh ourselves, to recharge.

When you have a leadership that is based on unity, interdependence, encouragement, loyalty and rejuvenation, you have leadership that is not only meaningful but matters.

Lead From Within: There is a way that nature speaks and most of the time we are simply not patient enough or quiet enough, to pay attention to the story. Learn your leadership lessons from anyone with something to teach. Every opportunity, every circumstance, every story has a lesson to impart.



N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

15 Responses to “Lessons from Geese: A Better Way to Lead”

  1. LaRae Quy

    17. Mar, 2015

    I, too, have always been fascinated with the ways birds fly in a formation—with designated leadership changing as conditions change.

    Also interesting is that it’s not always the next bird in line to take over as the leader. Instinctively, they seem to know that leadership requires special talent and skill as the environment shifts.

    Thanks for a great example!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jaunot Baker

    17. Mar, 2015

    What a truly wonderful article. I believe this to be true! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Jo Miller, GPC

    17. Mar, 2015

    Lolly, another beautiful post that taps into leadership in nature for natural leadership. When I see a migrating flock, I do think about the way they change leadership and have long been inspired by the way they share leadership, the leader takes the brunt of the (wind) resistance to improve the group’s resilience and knows when to hand the leadership over when they are no longer the strongest leader for that leg of the journey.

    I love what LaRae says in her comment about the flock’s instincts – how they know which member is best suited to lead at that particular point in their journey.

    I enjoy your perspective, Lolly. As usual, this post is perfectly timed for my life and work. Thank you for sharing your insights and vision.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Panteli Tritchew

    18. Mar, 2015

    Great lesson and metaphor from Mother Nature, Lolly! I have always enjoyed watching the V-formation of Canada geese and hearing them honk their way north or south. In addition to the leadership lessons you highlight, it strikes me that we can also add boundary sensitivity.

    It’s really cool that they can fly that far and that long, stay in formation just close enough to aerodynamically uplift each other, but stay far enough away from their immediate neighbours so they don’t interfere!

    Reply to this comment
  5. John Paul

    22. Mar, 2015

    Wonderful – thank you Lolly! Honk, Honk!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Linda Long

    23. Mar, 2015

    A fine example Lolly.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Abdi Omar

    09. May, 2015

    wonderful piece.
    Lolly i will always treasure your leadership lessons.

    Reply to this comment
  8. paul stead

    18. May, 2015

    Daily encouragement is as essential to personal welbeing as one’s own three square meals – team leadership is electrifying as vividly demonstrated by the Geese – thx Lolly 🙂

    Reply to this comment
  9. adams

    18. Jul, 2015

    Hi, lolly-daskal, I do Thank God on your life, you are really making impact to me, society and the world at large. Keep the good work remember one day we would work together, my dreams. Thank you

    Reply to this comment
  10. Marty Hoober

    14. Aug, 2015

    Awesome. In 1989, my mom sent this geese read to me while I was stationed on the USS America during Desert Shield. I still have the page; I get it out every once in a while. It helped my interpretation of chain of command then. I used it to motivate managing temps at a temp service several years later and then see it here today for a needed pick me up.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Laurent

    12. Oct, 2015

    This post is an excellent example to display the power of metaphors and analogies!
    Thank you for that.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Riaz A. Malik

    22. Sep, 2016

    Simply superb piece of observed example to explain leadership and team work

    Reply to this comment
  13. Anil

    04. Mar, 2017

    Lolly excellent piece on leadership. Humans have lot to learn from nature. As a kid i have see these formation of geese miles up in the blue sky over Doon valley in India. Its amazing how they never loose the sense of purpose. I am sure they must be brain storming various contengencies and what action to take when setting course.

    Lolly keep writing snd keep educating. You are doing a wonderful job. God bless

    Reply to this comment


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