I changed my mind about being a leader ~20 years ago. Being identified as a leader is not a popular choice in Australia, especially for women of my generation. My impression of leaders was of big, forceful personalities, carrying huge loads of responsibility, who attracted large numbers of followers along with vocal detractors. Not really a feminine ideal, nor a match with my personality! However, a new understanding of different styles of leadership and the potential to lead for communal good, caused me to put my foot forward into that ring eventually.
Leadership, at its simplest, is having someone follow you. On a sports team, the leader can be identified as the one with the ‘ball’, who must show leadership at that moment by deciding who to pass it to next. Hence, the leadership is constantly changing and becomes a shared commodity. Parents lead their children until they are able to make their own wise decisions. There are many leadership styles, from the upfront, charismatic type we tend to think about first, to the leader in the midst who quietly invites, organises and guides others. This ‘Dorothy-style’ (Wizard of Oz) of leadership resonated with me. Fortunately, I am a part of the Uniting Church which practices a consensus style of leadership of inter-related councils and welcomes women’s leadership. (I suspect these two factors are related!) As one of the leaders of the Church now, I find I can make a greater impact for good, than if I had continued to deny my leadership qualities.
It is disappointing when leaders use the trust and power invested in them just for their own gain. It runs counter to the whole concept of good leadership, which is to help others be their best for the sake of our whole society and planet. However, it is understandable leaders may make poor choices when they are constantly criticised, feeling they are unappreciated and there is ‘no win’ for their efforts. The detractors have a place in keeping them accountable, but this needs to be balanced with thankfulness for those who have offered their skills to lead with integrity. Is there someone you could sincerely encourage with your thankfulness? Might you be a leader still in hiding, who can make a bigger contribution to the world? As always, I am happy to discuss it with you.
Anne shared this piece on our Wednesday Weekly Walk yesterday. I hope we can be as wise as geese in the way we treat each other!
Fact 1: As each goose flap its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater range than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson: People who share a common sense of direction and community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.
Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position. Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership, as with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skill, capabilities and unique arrangement of gifts, talents or resources.
Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the productivity is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.
Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay until it dies or can fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.
“Lessons from Geese” was transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network and is based on the work of Milton Olson.
The articles here are currently written by Liam McKenna, Lane Cove Community Chaplain.