Documento creado: 9 de noviembre de 2007
Air & Space Power Journal - Español  Cuarto  Trimestre 2007

Leadership: Lessons from Geese

(Excerpts from a speech by LTG Russel Honore to Squadron Officer School)
Captain (USAF) Joshua M. Pope

Lessons from Geese

Artwork by Catherine Clark

 Being a leader is difficult.  Being a good leader is even harder.  The absolute right way to lead simply does not exist, yet most people think their way is the right way.  Leading is a process, a profession, and involves life-long education.  I learn a lot about leading from my peers and supervisors-what to do and, very often, what not to do.  You can learn to lead from all kinds of sources-history, people, and even animals-yes, animals.

LTG Russel Honore, Commander, First United States Army recently visited Squadron Officer School and spoke to 475 of the Air Force’ finest company grade officers.  He eloquently discussed his experiences during Hurricane KATRINA and climbing through the Army ranks, but his most captivating lesson was that of leadership.

Provide Common Direction.
 If you hear a flock of geese, you will notice they fly in a “V” formation.  The reason for this is simple.  Each time a goose flaps its wings, it creates “uplift” for the birds that follow.  By flying in a “V” formation, the entire flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.  A leader’s job is to set the vision for how to accomplish the mission.  A unit’s mission provides common direction and sense of community.  This direction must be clear and provide the same “uplift” needed to enable each person within the unit to work quicker and easier than if they worked alone.

Stay in Formation
When a goose falls out of formation, it is suddenly met with dramatically increased drag and resistance because it doesn’t have the “uplift” provided by the rest of the flock.  Our duty as Wingmen is to keep each other in formation and provide “uplift” needed to maintain speed and altitude towards completing the mission.  If we fail to be a good Wingman, we fall out of formation and face increased drag and resistance-making our journey and the team’s journey-much more difficult.

Be a Wingman
 Remember Top Gun?  “Never leave your wingman!”  When a goose gets sick or wounded, two other geese drop from formation and follow it down to protect it.  These Wingmen stay with their comrade until it dies or flies away.  Flying in the “V” and providing uplift is much easier than helping those that are down.  We always have one more e-mail, phone call, or tasking.  However, nothing-and I mean nothing-is more important than our people.  If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we’re strong.

Be a leader and a Follower
When the lead bird tires, it rotates back in to the formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.  We can’t always be the leader, award winner, or in the spotlight.  We must also be an exemplary follower.  Not one person in our Air Force has the skill, capability, or talents to lead in every situation.  Our Air Force is dependent upon the skills, capabilities, and talents of every individual.  The pay off of taking turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership is tremendous.

Geese are noisy.  The noise you hear geese making during flight is meant to encourage those in front to keep their speed - that “uplift” which keeps the rest of the formation, Wingmen, leaders, and followers going.  This is where we tie it all together.  We need to honk at each other … “Hooah” (or as one of my colleagues says, “Bluerah”).  In good times, and especially in bad, we need to encourage each other.  Look into people’s eyes-the window to the soul - and say, “Hello, how are you today?” and mean it.  This simple act is leadership.  The power of encouragement is the quality of honking we seek.

We can learn to lead from all kinds of sources - peers, supervisors, subordinates, or even geese.  As leaders, we must provide a clear sense of direction and purpose that enables each member of the team to stay in formation.  We must be a Wingman at all times - that e-mail or tasking will wait.  Sometimes as leaders we have to do things we may not want to do--go to ceremonies or participate in any number of events that seemingly jam up our schedules.  Nothing is more important than the person that sits next to you.  Share responsibility and always train your replacement.  No one person can accomplish the mission alone.  Finally, a simple “Hello” to those around you can provide encouragement that may just save someone from the brink of disaster.  Leadership is not easy, but great examples of leadership are all around us if we just take the time to look.


Captain Joshua M. 

Captain (USAF) Joshua M. Pope (BA, St. Louis University; MS, University of Central Missouri), currently serves as Executive Officer, Squadron Officer College.  He is an aircraft maintenance officer and has served in positions supporting the B-1, C-130, and A/OA-10.  As a maintenance officer, he has supervised over 800 Airmen in his various assignments.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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