Mother Goose was really onto something

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A number of leadership gurus have feathered their nests with the work of Dr. Robert McNeish. If you’re not familiar with McNeish, look up.

See that V-formation of geese? As far as our research goes — and it’s not exhaustive, because the path has been muddied by many people taking credit for Dr. McNeish’s observations — McNeish saw geese as few others had. McNeish was a science teacher who penned his thoughts for a church sermon. The result, his 1972 “Lessons from the Geese,” has been used since its introduction by the Boy Scouts of America, Toastmasters International and a whole flock of leadership peddlers.

We won’t insult your intelligence with obvious metaphors or detailed explanations about what the attributes of geese could represent on higher planes. On the other hand, next time you see a gaggle resting in a field with sentinels clearly posted, or you hear someone complaining about the mess geese make on public property, remember McNeish.

Here are his observations. Apply them as you see fit.

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As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

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Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the “lifting power” of the bird immediately in front.

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When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position.

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The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

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When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow their fellow member down to help provide protection. They stay with this member of the flock until he or she is either able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own, with another formation, or catch up with their own flock.

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