It won’t be long before you can glance up to the sky in my town and see the perfect v-shape of a flock of Canadian geese heading back north as this very mild winter comes to an end. Every time I see a flock, I’m reminded of how I want to lead.
As a leader, you know that by definition, you are the one leading your team to new goals, new ideas, new accomplishments. For the most part, leading from the front is crucial. There are times, just like with the geese, that you may need to drop back for a season and allow someone else to lead while you rest and recuperate. But for the most part, you are the one out front.
It’s important not to get too far ahead of your team, though. Do you know why geese fly in a v-shape? It’s a lesson in aerodynamics. If the geese were all lined up side-by-side, or just flying scattered (like a group of blackbirds), each and every one of them would feel the full effects of the headwind. Flying in a “v” allows all of the geese behind the leader to expend less energy, which translates into being able to fly longer distances. Studies show that flying this way can increase a goose’s productivity by as much as 70%! When the other geese fly within a few inches of each other, their combined aerodynamics create greater momentum for the whole flock.
When one goose takes the lead, he subjects himself to the brunt of the stress. He willingly takes on the load in order to make the way easier for the rest of the flock. But if he flies too far ahead, the whole system breaks down. He has not stayed close enough to benefit his flock.
When you are too far ahead of your team, you forget. You forget what it’s like to be where they are. You forget to follow through with what the team is executing, because you’re focused on what’s happening three steps ahead of now, and don’t make time for what is now. You forget how to relate to your team. You forget why you need your team as much as they need you.
The Bible holds great examples of leading from the front. Commanders of armies didn’t lead from in the middle of the fight – they were the first ones to the battle. The commanders were close enough to their troops that at any time, their men could look up and see their leader with them. When David, one of the great kings of Israel, chose not to go in front of his army, he suffered great loss both personally and as a nation.
Great leaders see where their teams need to go. They are constantly looking ahead and seeing what’s next, even when others may not see it yet. But great leaders never get so far ahead that they lose touch, and influence, with their team. Are you leading from the front?