By Loraine Debnam
I’ve been watching the many flocks of geese winging over my home this past month.
Each time I marvel at their natural instinct to fly in that special and recognizable pattern. I have read all but the leader fly beside and slightly above the next which creates an “upwash.”
Recognizably, this would reduce the wind resistance which conserves energy and helps each bird to support its own weight in flight.
This “free” lift reduces the drag up to 65 per cent, according to researchers. The process is not random but very carefully choreographed, as each individual harmonizes its wing beats to take advantage of this upwash.
This improves their fuel efficiency and allows them to travel much greater distances before stopping to rest.
As they fly over, I can hear them calling encouragement to each other and the chevron pattern provides a wider field of vision, which makes for good eye contact and group co-ordination.
The leader, as well as the birds on the tips of the formation, rotates in a cycle to spread the fatigue equally, which also conserves the energy of the entire flock.
They are working together for a common goal and everyone is responsible for leadership at one time or another.
As they travel they are trusting in one another and know they are part of a team. They don’t have to try to “go it alone,” as it were.
In human history, the concept of shared leadership with a shared purpose can be traced back to the Roman Empire.
Unfortunately, it changed drastically as we became a more so-called “modern society.”
Leadership deteriorated to command and control and was centralized in the hands of a single dominant superior.
Initially, this seemed to work well to unite warring tribes, city states and even countries, but too much power can lead to corruption, dictatorship and tyranny. We recognize it in political situations but it has also prevailed in business and industry.
Too many of us are familiar with unrealistic goals, quotas and achievement levels being set by inflexible and unresponsive CEOs.
Thankfully there is a paradigm shift happening in areas such as education, health care and some sports.
In today’s global economy, no single individual has all the skills and abilities to competently and continually direct every function of a business.
Teamwork is becoming increasingly important in the workplace. This new outlook builds and sustains performance, as having a common goal provides meaning and purpose to the group or team.
Since individuals have input into the decision-making process and the setting of objectives and criteria, they lead one another to the achievement of the mission.
Even if there is a failure, their support and encouragement to each other is inspirational and helps to refocus everyone on the mission and the discipline to stay the course rather than give up.
That doesn’t mean there should never be a leader for the group.
My goodness, if every flying Canada goose decided their way was better, total chaos would ensue and they would never reach their ultimate destination.
The secret, I think, is finding the potential in each individual.
Consumer activist, author and speaker Ralph Nader puts it this way “start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
That would certainly put everyone on the right flight path.