How can a stinky, hissing goose teach you to be a business leader?

In the 1990s we lived on a farm in Iowa. Ever since I grew up in the country, I thought I knew everything there was to know about life in the country. Imagine my surprise at learning something that changed my life from a pair of old geese!

When we got the farm, I wanted to have the full experience, so I started collecting animals. We acquired cats, dogs, chickens, an old horse, guineas and the pair of geese. I remember the wisdom that came from animals. One of those pieces of wisdom was leadership.

Leadership can be applied to our families, friends, business partners, co-workers, and relatives. True leaders are not born, as we are often taught. True leaders develop. True leaders discover what others want and then weigh the best solution to create a win-win situation.

Leaders face challenges head-on and don’t complain: ‘It’s too difficult.’ Do they take the time and energy to develop their character, skills, philosophies, attitudes and goals and then? So let these things be your guiding force. Good leaders understand that others look up to them. They grasp the concept of this immense responsibility and joyfully take on the task. Good, bad or ugly.

So how can a pair of smelly hissing geese teach you more about leadership? Well, on the farm we had 4 acres of forest and at night it was crawling with possums, raccoons, and coyotes. Of course, that meant that every night all the feathered animals would have to be locked up in the henhouse. Chickens and guineas had no problem entering at night. The geese? Well, they were another story!

The geese were stubborn. They had their own ideas. They didn’t want to be told what to do.

Does this sound like someone you know?

Every night the five children, two dogs, and I would do the “goose dance” ritual in which we chased geese with large sticks, brooms, and whatever other intimidating objects we could find. We would try to push them by force and drive them away to the chicken coop. At times, my husband would strategically suggest a new technique. However, NOTHING worked!

Barking, yelling, and honking were standard sounds during the ritual goose dance. We finally managed to go around and lead the geese to the door of the henhouse. Reluctantly, they jumped over the threshold and we slammed the door fast and angry behind them as we shouted angry words and stomped toward the house. I was not happy.

The geese began to consume my thoughts. What motivated these stupid, stupid and stubborn birds? Why did they have such a mind of their own and why were they so … well … you know … difficult? Didn’t they realize that it was for their own protection and we were trying to do our best for them? After all, we KNEW what would happen if they stayed out at night. They would be a chicken dinner for some animal that was prowling in the forest.

I can’t say that I blame them. Nobody likes being told what to do. Pushing someone never works. Nobody likes to give up their freedom and ideas. Even if you realize something they don’t know and it’s for their own good.

Then I realized that maybe … just maybe, geese were like people. Yes … maybe they had a mind and personality of their own. Maybe he needed to find out what they wanted. When I showed them how to do it, they actually WANTED to join the cooperative. Maybe I could lead them. It was time to get creative!

That night I opened a bag of corn and spilled some grains in front of the geese. They quickly approached and swallowed it. He had found the answer! Woo Hoo !!!

I was in front of them … I was leading them. They were following me! I took the corn and grain by grain, they followed me to the chicken coop!

I ran out and slammed the door and this time, I smiled! No curses, no anger. I was happy!

I took my cane and danced with it … you know … John Travolta style. STAY ALIVE, STAY ALIVE ………. AH AH AH AH …. STAY ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE.

Living on a farm means there are no close neighbors to control his behavior, so he tends to be … well, let’s just say … more … you know … uninhibited. He had just learned the power of leadership from a couple of stupid, hissing, stinky, annoying birds! I was so happy!

From that moment on, the geese came in every night. I was even able to teach my children to be “leaders”. What a concept. Teach leadership to others.

Leadership is a skill. Skills can be learned … you don’t have to be born a leader. If you want to become a strong leader, ask yourself these questions:

What motivates your associates, employees, and team members?

Are you trying to get what YOU want by pushing or do you take the time to find out what THEY want and then show them how to get it?

Are you commanding your team members or are you guiding them in the right direction?

Are you creatively designing win-win situations?

You never know, they might even thank you one day. After all … anything is possible when you develop leadership skills!

(c) 2005 Michelle Shelton, All rights reserved

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