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Vol. 28, No. 3

Flying in formations

By Allan Head

We have a vacation home on Lake Gaston, a 35-mile-long lake on the Virginia/North Carolina border. I’ve told many folks that I hope I’ll live to a ripe old age, but at whatever age life comes to an end, it will have been at least 10 years longer because of the joy and solitude I have experienced at Lake Gaston.

One of the joys is watching geese fly in formation. At Lake Gaston it is a common sight; we see them coming in the fall and leaving in the spring. Incidentally, those that don’t leave in the spring tend to spend the summer and poop all over your yard. To “refocus,” the migration of geese is an awesome sight.

It is obvious to me that successful bar leaders understand a lot about geese. If you want to learn more, the following facts come from an article called “Lessons from Geese” by Milton Olson.

Fact: As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an “uplift” for the bird following it. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock achieves 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: Bar leaders who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

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

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go.

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

Lesson : We need to make sure our “honking” from behind is always encouraging; if you’re not honking, you’re not helping.

Fact: When a goose gets sick or wounded, two geese drop out of formation to follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it is either able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out on their own with another formation or catch up with their flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as the geese, we will stand by each other—and good bar leaders know this well. Quality of life, lawyer effectiveness, lawyer assistance, and positive action for lawyers programs are excellent examples.

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

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. North Carolina Bar Association President Betty Quick said it best in 1998 when she passed the gavel, having had her time at “the point.” She used the goose analogy and said she had worked hard to be a good president (and she was) but it was now time for her to drop back in formation and let someone else lead; and as she left the podium, she promised everyone she would “keep on honking.”

The success of any association is built on shared and rotating leadership. The lesson we learn from geese is the importance and strength of association. The power of association will be the topic of our next Page Two column.

Keep honking!