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DISTILLING THE WISDOM OF DUCKS IN TEAM LEADERSHIP

I once heard a personal development coach tell trainees in a seminar that if you are an eagle ensure that ducks do not scratch your wings.  He implied that if you are an eagle do not walk with ducks, ducks cannot fly where eagles fly.

But even if ducks cannot fly where eagles fly, as leaders we can learn a lot from them particularly the concept of synergy and teamwork. If you have ever observed ducks in a flight, you will notice immediately two things. First, they always fly in a V-formation. Second, one side of the V is always slightly longer than the other side.  The reason for both things is highly significant. The reason that one side of the V is always slightly longer than the other side is simply that the side that is longer has more ducks in it.  On the other hand the reason ducks fly in a V formation is to take advantage of the partial wind vacuum created in the wake of each duck. By periodically changing the lead duck they can fly nearly twice as far together as they could on their own.

Leaders can learn this concept of synergy from ducks and apply in their various leadership roles.  I mean the idea of synergy must be an integral value in the life of leaders.  They must evaluate their own weaknesses and call others alongside who have abilities in those areas.  They need to use their abilities to draw the strength of others and as a result, become more effective and efficient in the journey towards their leadership goals.

CBS anchor Katie Couric asked Barack Obama in January 2008 which one book he would take with him to the White House, apart from the Bible.  Mr. Obama singled out a book entitled “Team of Rivals”.

The reason why Mr. Barack Obama wanted to read the book (Team of Rivals) was to understand the qualities that made it possible for Abraham Lincoln to bring disgruntled opponents together to create the most unusual cabinet in history.  He wanted to learn how to confront the economic crisis then and had a strong conviction that with the great insight he had got the United States will weather the storm as it had weathered worse before.

He modeled his leadership on the style of Abraham Lincoln by bringing heavy weight politicians who were themselves past and future presidential contenders into his cabinet.  In other words he had reprised Lincoln’s strategy of creating a team composed of his most able rivals; People who were unafraid to take issue with him and who were confident of their own leadership.

If the new US President could learn from Abraham Lincoln so too can business, county or national leaders who are grappling now with similar questions of how to lead in this turbulent times.

Casey Stange said. “Getting good players is easy, getting them to play together is the hard part”, To make people play together is to respect and honor them.  How can you honor and grace those wonderful people who help you perform your important work?  The simple answer is”: Acknowledge their contributions.

James A. Belasso said, “Don’t wear your robes to Bed”. I once knew a school Principal who talked about policy and reminding his teachers and students all the time that he was in charge.  He spent his time in his office holding meetings with his immediate staff.  I never knew him to visit a classroom, speak with a student, dialogue with a parent, exchange ideas with a teacher, or engage in discussion with a community member.  He wore his suit to the market and to the barber shop.  He always thought he was the only one in charge, he had the power.

As leaders you need to know that your car has approximately 60,000 parts.  The battery may say “I am in charge of all of them.  Nothing starts without me. I am the battery.  I have the power. Power! Power! Power! In other words the battery has power to start the engine.  Does that sound like some leaders you know?

Do you agree that the battery has power to start the engine? I personally do not think so.  For the engine to start the battery has only to provide the power. The small wire the current, the spark plugs the fire and the engine to run the car. They all have to work in a coordinated way- a team of some sort.

I mean the terminal wire was put there to transmit electrical current from the battery to the generator and to the engine to ignite the spark plugs that provides the fire to turn the pistons and turn the engine over.  Therefore, whatever organization you lead, it is important to note everyone counts equally if your organizations have to achieve their goals and missions.

As a leader you have to stay sensitive in scanning continually for any signs of disunity and discontentment that may emerge in the team that you lead. If you are interested, locusts are an excellent case study for this as their movement is a wonder that is proverbial. Locusts lack fitting aerodynamic streamline bodies for miles and miles migration. One of the wisest kings studied this phenomenal move of the locusts and proverbially said, “The locusts have no king, yet they go forth all in band.”

The Ancient Eastern saying goes, “Go to the people, live among them, learn from them and love them. Start with what they know; Build on what they have. But of the best leaders, when their task is accomplished, their work is done, the people will remark, ‘we have done it ourselves’.” From this saying it occurs to me that a great leader who is a team leader is one who learns from his follows and coaches them at the same time. I mean he should be a good coach who energizes challenges, develops, and equips his people. He must bring out the very best that they have to offer. He demands that they perform at their peak and then trains them to do so. In this day and age when most organizations suffer from low morale and unmotivated workers, leaders must become skilled coaches to ensure the success of their team. They must also be patient. One day Lincoln’s friend asked him why he was reading so much and yet education had been of no help to him in earning a living. Lincoln replied, “I am not educating myself to earn a living but managing my patience trying to find out what would do with a living if I ever earn it”.

Much as leaders can distil a great wisdom from ducks as far as team leadership is concerned, they can also learn a lot from Abraham Lincoln’s leadership style. Lincoln’s style of leadership provides a perfect case of having an effective team of mixed strengths and skills. When Lincoln brought Edwin Stanton into the cabinet in 1862 as secretary of war, for example, Stanton was much tougher, much more secretive, than Lincoln, who was often too kind to subordinates and at times too open. Their opposite temperaments balanced each other out. Where Lincoln was too lenient, issuing pardons for soldiers who had run away from battle to the point of hurting military discipline, Stanton was relentless in his desire to punish cowardice. By working together, pardons were issued but not in the numbers they had been under Lincoln alone. Even where I come from, we are told that during dowry negotiations a team that went to negotiate dowry from a lady’s side was of balanced and opposite temperaments. There were those who would vehemently oppose any offer given by the parents of the man and there were those who would mold the consensus.

Whether you want to distill the wisdom of ducks in team movement or adopting the leadership style of Abraham Lincoln or even copy the wisdom of mixture of opposite balanced temperaments during dowry negotiations in my home place as was done in the old days, there is only and only one goal in view – using synergy in teams for maximum benefits!

It is always said that a great music group is not so much about the brilliance of a solo act of the musicians may bring to the table, but how well they play together. Therefore if leaders can harness the energy, talents and dreams of the people around them, helping one another fulfill their destinies in life, then all in the team will excel, and the results for organizations will be exponential.