The Buffalo And The Geese

The Buffalo and the Geese

A book entitled "Flight of the Buffalo" (Belasco & Stayer, 1993) described two differing types of team leadership. In the traditional leadership model there is one leader who is responsible for planning, organising, commanding, coordinating, and controlling the team. S/he is to be the "head buffalo", leading the team "herd" towards success. Buffalo are by nature, loyal followers who will do whatever the lead buffalo wants. Sadly however, if the lead buffalo falls off a cliff, the rest of the herd will follow.

A more realistic model for leading today's work team calls for a paradigm shift. The team is seen as a flock of geese as opposed to a herd of buffalo. When geese fly in a "V" formation, the leadership of the flock changes as the need for different leadership skills arises. Amazingly, each goose in the flock has a particular specialty that helps the geese arrive safely at their destination. One goose may be expert at finding water, while another may be proficient in navigating strong headwinds. Using dynamic leadership, the geese share responsibility for the progress of the entire flock.

Dynamic leadership is more desperately needed now than at any time in the history of work teams. With diverse tasks, short production cycles, and ever changing team priorities, those team members who have a specialized piece of knowledge can expect to be pressed into a leadership role to accomplish project objectives. Once a given project or phase of a project has been completed, a new leader will step in to lead the team through the next set of challenges it faces.

In order to use dynamic leadership effectively, the concept must be integrated into the planning phase of the team project. Once project tasks are set, the team will determine which member has the best knowledge of, or most experience with each task set. That individual will be the designated leader while those tasks are being accomplished. Dynamic leadership fully utilizes the talent of the entire team and provides a way to leverage team experience to the benefit of all involved.


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