Leadership Lessons From Canadian Geese

by Brian Dobak
December 7, 2009

If you are reading this, you have surely been on a golf course and heard a squawking noise in the distance approaching closer and closer. Your maintenance staff probably deems the geese their worst enemies. Soon enough, you look up and it’s a flock of geese flying in a v-formation. Have you ever wondered why geese fly in a v-formation?

As the geese take flight from the Canadian shoreline, they lift off from the water in squawking discourse. Yet, in a matter of seconds, a line begins to emerge from the mass of brown feathers. This line straightens, arches slightly, and then, as on cue, bends sharply to form a perfect V shape. Canadian geese fly in V formation for a very pragmatic reason: a flock of geese flying in formation can move faster and maintain flight longer than any one goose flying alone. Synergy is a law of nature.

Cover more ground

Canadian geese cover 71% more ground than what each individual bird would be able to cover on their own. The geese are pushing each other and helping each other along the way. Likewise, people who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another. In the northeast and even the southeast, golf professionals spend a majority of their off seasons planning for the coming season. Looking at the calendar and considering all of the events planned and the daily play expected, it is a daunting task fit only for a TEAM to cover and accomplish.

Team Work

Geese work as a team by drafting each other with their wings up-washing and downwashing, thus creating a larger amount of collective speed and momentum. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds immediately in front. If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are heading in the same direction as we are. From time to time, it is inevitable that there will be a staff member that begins to stray from the pack. Most of the time, all it takes is a team meeting or simply pulling the staff member aside, respecting and reframing his situation and reeling him back into the squad.

Everyone is a Leader

When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. When the Head Professional is absent, everyone must be capable of answering the call to lead. Assistants might feel as though they are not leaders because they are not the Head Professional, but the Head Professional will not always be present. Assistants must hold themselves and others accountable inside and outside of the presence of the Head Professional or Director of Golf. Additionally, it pays to take turns doing hard jobs. Everyone must be given the experience of leading so that when their number is called, they can step right in take others under their wing.

Everyone Needs a Push

The geese squawk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. Whether it’s from burnout or the inevitable distractions of our personal lives, everyone on the team needs a push every once in a while, even the guys on top. Assistants need a push and they get it from the other assistants and the Head Professional. Even the Head Professional gets a push from the Director of Golf. Even the Director of Golf gets a push from the General Manager. Everyone needs a push, but we need to be careful what we say when we squawk from behind.

Man Down

When a goose gets sick, is wounded by gunshot, is tired or hungry, and falls out of formation, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead, and then they launch out on their own or with another formation until they catch up with their group. If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other, protect one another and sometimes make new friends who seem to be going in our direction. As an assistant, have you ever been scolded by a member and your Head Professional came to bat for you and defended you? It sure is a good feeling knowing your superior is there for you. Conversely, was their a time when the Head Professional did not bat for you and did not defend you? It sure is an awful feeling knowing that someone you work with is not in your corner.

In Conclusion

Synergy is best explained as, 'One plus one equals more than two'. The golf business increasingly requires transformational leaders who will commit to creating a synergy of energy within their staff and circle of influence so new levels of performance can be reached. Synergy helps you realize the value of others, and secondly, encourages you to find the right people. Synergy is a dynamic form of leverage. Avoid using it, and end up working four times as hard for half the results. Use it and watch the results expand exponentially in your golf operation!