The Leadership Secrets of Geese by John Stebbins, Assoc. AIA March 24 ’09

I have been saying for years that BIM is about collaboration. We can learn a lot about collaboration from the animal kingdom.

We have all observed that geese fly in a wedge formation and that there is always a lead bird at the tip of the “V” that the others seem to follow. Most of us assume that this leader is the wisest, strongest, or the most heroic of the flock. However, researchers studying bird migration have learned that this leadership role actually rotates.

A new lead bird flies to the front of the flock, not because of its heroic status, but because as each goose flaps its wings, it provides an uplift thrust for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock gains greater migratory flying range than if each bird flew alone. When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and a fresh goose from the rear assumes the leadership position, allowing the flock to maintain the fastest pace possible. Followers encourage leaders as members honk from behind to encourage leaders to maintain a fast pace. Members look after each other, helping all geese achieve the common goal. If a wounded goose goes down, two geese follow, protect and feed it until it recovers or dies.

In short, the flock multiplies its strength by sharing the leadership and encouraging each other. It is instinctual to the flock to maximize strengths, overcome weaknesses, seize opportunities, and minimize risks.

This leadership style does not rely on heroic behavior. No one bird is the single dynamic leader that inspires the entire group to excel. Through shared leadership, together they discover their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks.

Applied to business, this synergy offers the team self-motivated leadership opportunities. Decisions are collaborative with different members rotating in the role of providing direction or coordination based on each individual’s expertise. Team members naturally gravitate toward skills they are good at and take the lead on tasks that draw out their strengths.

People who share a common direction and sense of collaboration can get where they are going quicker and easier when traveling on the thrust of one another.

The more we can collaborate and link with others, the more value we can bring to our professions and our projects.

Let the knowledge collaboration begin!

Categories: BIM | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Thanks for an interesting post. It’s such a great point that leadership can be developed and shared through collaboration. The development of human potential and teamwork has long been a keen interest of mine since my college studies and when I started my career in counseling. We tend to just allow “born leaders” to emerge or take charge but there is so much more to be gained by purposely developing shared team leadership through collaboration whether in the business world or on a Little League baseball field, for example.

    I now have nearly 20 years in recruiting — and leadership and collaboration remain a passion in my current work specializing in BIM. It requires and inspires leadership and collaboration. I’m excited about participating in the advancement of BIM because it is not just a technology but a more productive and satisfying way to think, create, communicate and build. It brings to mind a term I haven’t used in probably 30 years — gestalt.

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