Lessons From The Geese Revisited, Leadership And Life


I’ve been hearing geese honking all day.It seemed last night that they were louder than usual. Since moving by the river, I expected to hear the rapids, but I certainly didn’t think I would be sitting reading, hearing geese honking. I’m never sure whether they are flying back and forth to the duck ponds across the road, or going home. Wonder where their home is? Are they local geese, Oregon geese, or are they from somewhere else? Do they look the same as the other geese? Do they speak the same goose language?

The other day I read geese fly home each year. I have that instinct too, since moving to Eugene. I wonder where these geese are going? I was used to seeing geese at home in Northern California. I lived forty five minutes from Lake Tahoe, in the middle of nowhere. Mountain life was so different than Eugene. But geese in both places were comforting as my life shifted dramatically.

Have you ever looked up and simply watched flocks of geese gliding above?We used to have a couple Canadian honkers vacationing on our property from January to May each year. Our ‘snowbirds’. We named them Edgar and Matilda. It was really funny. I didn’t know geese had a personality and noisy voices. I had never been around that close, before. I knew they had a funny, nasty hiss when they were waiting for the corn bucket, or not getting their way. Just like couples everywhere, pretty much. And teams resolving conflicts, which are inevitable in transforming organizations and schools.

My husband and I put out cracked corn every day, a very big enticement for company and sure enough, all of a sudden, like clockwork we’d hear the pair fly overhead, land gracefully, skimming on our pond. Never was sure how they could spot that the corn was out, then circle back around. They came for their daily visit, creatures of habit, so to speak, in rain, snow, ice, never mattered. Except for us, gingerly wading through snow to get their treat out.

The geese had the same routines every day, pretty much. Came in, a lot of honking, like “we’re here”, swam and ate for awhile. Then sure enough, they would come out of the water, waddle around the pond (just like “Bears in the Night”), walk up the steepish hill, meander slowly toward the barn, check out the compost pile, then waddle over to the back yard behind our house looking for the cracked corn we put out. It was fascinating how they teamed up. One goose ate while the other guarded. Usually Matilda ate first. Poor Edgar really sacrificed most of the time. Sometimes they wouldn’t get along, but resolved their conflict after a little hiss, changing places and some bobbing and weaving.

We know that geese mate for life. When one of our pair was lost after a number of years, several interlopers attempted to get with the remaining goose, and take over the pond and grassy knolls for themselves. Finally, the remaining goose of the couple just disappeared. But the newer, younger pair who had already been warned away in a number of little skirmishes over a couple years, (actually several worthy to watch air, ground and water skirmishes) just took over the yard as new crowned royals. It was a destination resort for our geese, with beautiful property to wander, the pond, areas to hide in and plenty to eat, and predators held at bay.

I spent a lot of time geese watching, as well as other critter, including skunks, foxes, deer, bear, etc. Our large picture windows offered the best entertainment, animal spotting. It’s how I got to know geese as splendid creatures, calming to watch, my Zen.

Each day, as twilight came in on tiny little feet, our residents reversed their course to fly home. I think they were back and forth to and from Sly Park Lake, four miles from our historic home. But I am not sure. How were these geese so smart that they found our property and came every day for food and a leisurely, safe day? How did they keep their secret from all the ‘ordinary ‘ geese at that lake? Was I imagining it?

At the end of the day, Edgar and Matilda, away from their flock, on their own, seemed to know when it was time to leave. They marched back up the hill, stood in place at the top, back up by the barn, and bobbing in deference to each other, again shared leadership, who gets to fly out first? One would get a little ahead, then the other would make wishes known, and the pair would shift places. It went on for quite awhile before finally honking “let’s go” and around the barn they flew, so majestically. I presumed headed back to their flock. I always wondered how well the rest of their group accepted them as they were so different from the rest or were they, really?

it is so comforting to turn off news, gaze at the river, measure moments in terms of rapids watching. And then, with a steady honking, out of nowhere come those magnificent geese. There is the V formation! Look at that strong leader out in front pacing the group, keeping the flock working in sync, just like schools and organizations.

The continuity of ilfe is so calming, zen-like. Geese will always find a new group and join the formation. They know how to be leaders and followers. Just like us. It’s time for us to be the strongest leaders imaginable, to dance the dance of love, steeped in kindness, stepping on as few toes as possible while gliding along the dance floor of life.

Bring on the zen. We need to relax. Too much stress. Self- care is no joke.

We need each other. Better together, just like the geese. I’m hearing them right now. They have been serenading me all day as I reflected on my piece.

This eloquent, classic leadership story is credited to several authors including Arrien, in ’91, Knight and Olson. If you know it, I hope you share with others. It’s so timely.

Lessons From The Geese.

As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an ‘uplift’ for the bird following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% more flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson One: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier when they are traveling on the thrust of one another. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly gets back in formation to take advantage of the ‘lifting’power’ of the bird immediately in front.

Lesson Two: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go. When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position.

Lesson Three: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership- interdependent with each other. The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson Four: We need to make sure our honking from behind is encouraging, helpful, constructive, and supportive. When a goose gets sick or wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow him down to help protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly again or die, then they launch out on their own with another formation or to catch up with the flock.

Lesson Five: If we have as much sense as the geese, we’ll stand by each other and help each other, just like that.

Lessons From The Geese is simply timeless. An inspiring gift, itinstinctively offers us lessons in leadership, cooperation, teamwork and love. Geese certainly build capacity in their flock through constructs of their life. So,

Let’s be Geese!

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita

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