Historically, health care has functioned on a “knight in shining armour” model of leadership, where one person is largely responsible for saving the day. But our sectors are changing. As millennials bring new energy, new ideas, and new, more collaborative ways of working into our sectors, perspectives on leadership are changing.
A perhaps surprising source of inspiration can be found in one of our national symbols: the Canada goose. Like people in our sectors, Canadian geese have a strong sense of family and group loyalty. Their leadership style suggests some interesting ways forward for humans in health care:
1. Get farther, together.
When geese fly in a V formation, they improve the overall efficiency of the flock by 71%. The flapping of wings creates air patterns that lift surrounding birds, reducing the effort each goose has to expend to travel, and greatly expanding how far they can go.
Take Action: Foster a shared sense of direction and work as a team to get to the destination more quickly and easily.
2. Share leadership.
When the goose at the front of the V formation--where flying is harder--gets tired, it moves to the end and another goose takes the lead.
Take Action: Give everybody a chance to contribute by taking turns leading and following. Optimize each person’s unique skills, capabilities, knowledge, and resources.
3. Be encouraging.
Geese flying in a V-formation honk to encourage the geese ahead of them. Honking also helps them communicate their position to maintain speed.
Take Action: Make sure that, as a leader, your communication is encouraging and supportive. It boosts performance and keeps the team moving together.
Ultimately, geese encourage us to think not about leaders, but about leadership. They dismantle hierarchies to make each goose – not just one – responsible for contributing to the big picture.
This kind of distributed leadership recognizes the energy, ideas, talents, and skills that people bring to the table. The role of the leader then becomes directing that energy meaningfully.
Take Action: How can you apply the three leadership lessons from geese in your own context?
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