10 Lessons From Canada Geese to Master Leadership
1. Master Leadership: The best leaders create more leaders! Canada Geese work together to raise their goslings, teaching them to be good parents, to protect one another and to remember the route (South in Fall and North in Spring). They take turns leading the flock as they fly to their destination. This ensures that there are multiple leaders who are cross-trained and expert in guiding the flock, at all times.
2. Mentor for skill development: We are all on a life-long learning journey. Canada Geese stay close to their parents for their first year. During their second year, young geese choose a mate; they also observe, help to protect and care for the next generation of goslings, developing their parenting skills. By their third season, Canada Geese are well equipped to produce and care for their own brood. It takes time and practice to master leadership skills.
3. Leverage your strengths: We all have unique talents. The female Canada Goose takes charge of choosing the nest location and construction; she also incubates the eggs. The male or gander is responsible for protecting the nest during the incubation period. Together they watch over the hatching of the eggs and welcome the goslings to the world. Together they guard the goslings – the female at the front of the line and the gander at the rear. Each brings their unique abilities to bear on the challenges at hand.
4. Achieve more together: Let’s all learn and grow as a team! The aerodynamic ‘V’ flight formation practiced by Canada Geese allows the entire flock to travel nearly twice the distance that a single bird could fly on its own; the birds in front create lift and reduce resistance for the birds following. Encouraging leadership lifts all members of the team.
5. Protect your brand: Know what you stand for. Canada Geese follow specific traditions and behaviors: the routes they fly, the flight formation, honking and how they create more leaders. They are visible, noticeable and all look the same with their dark heads and bodies and white chin straps. When we are consistent in our words and actions, we master leadership and others know what to expect from us.
6. Foster loyalty: We are all in this together! Canada Geese mate for life – unlike many other species they are loyal to a single mate with whom they share the parenting and flock protection responsibilities. They are also loyal to their extended family and community, traveling together as they return to the same nesting grounds year after year. When you have each other’s back, you will all go forward with greater confidence.
7. Help those in need: Offer support, sustenance and comfort. Canada Geese readily adopt goslings who are lost or orphaned ensuring that these goslings are fed, protected, and cared for. When a member of the flock is injured or gets ill during migration, two other birds will follow their incapacitated comrade to the ground and stay with them until they die or are well enough to resume migration. We are all invested in doing social good.
8. Anticipate adversity: There will be challenges! Canada Geese take turns acting as lookout and guardian for the flock. They anticipate danger and fight fiercely when their flock or family is threatened. We all operate in a competitive environment, and when we create more leaders, we create more champions.
9. Embrace diversity: Diversity of thought, culture, heritage and genetics! Canada Geese live in harmony with other species (e.g., ducks, coots, moor hens, cormorants) and, when threatened by predators, they will all attack together. We all benefit when we work together!
10. Communicate clearly and often: repeat your message until it is heard. Canada Geese have a large repertoire of ‘honks’ to communicate with one another including the “let’s go” honk that signals the flock to take flight and the “keep going” honk that encourages those in front to keep up the pace. Communication is key in all organizations!
Anne Miner is President of The Dunvegan Group, a full-service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business companies across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.