“Every feather moves in intimate, intricate converse with the wind. Language is such clumsy communication compared to that between breeze and bird. Inseparability and wholeness are everywhere. Bone and feathers, flesh and spirit, space and time— wind, bird, sunlight, Earth, man—irrevocably interconnected, defining one another. All simultaneously competing and cooperating, separate yet inseparable, a whole of parts and a part of wholes, none in control but all in order.”Dee Hock, ‘One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization.’
Bernoulli’s principle is named after the Swiss-Dutch mathematician and physicist Daniel Bernoulli, who published it in his book “Hydrodynamica” in 1738. It wasn’t until Bernoulli’s principle that we understood the importance of lift. Lift occurs when air flows across a shape, we call it an airfoil and the air underneath it pushes it up. Bird wings function as airfoils, and thus air flowing past their wings propels them upward. This same insight has resulted in the modern airfoils we see as aeroplane wings. This is an example of biomimicry, learning from and then emulating nature’s forms, processes, and ecosystems to innovate.
Just as we can learn functional principles like air flight from birds, we can also learn soft skills like leadership and teamwork.
Migrating birds fly in V-formation or W-formation and even straight or broken lines. This is akin to how a cycling team rotate the lead cyclist to optimise energy usage. The leading bird makes the greatest effort by reducing air drag so the flock can fly for greater distances. You might notice with a cycling race how the lead cyclist rotates. Well, this is the same for the lead bird. By sharing the lead role, the flock lasts longer and conserves more energy. A solo run kills the team.
One of the shifts we are seeing in the business world is reflected in the flock formation; that is, the leader should not always take the lead. Allowing others to lead saves her energy and facilitates capability-building in the rest of the team. Many leaders believe they must lead every initiative and be involved in every project, but with so much on their plate today, this is an impossible task. Of course, some leaders feel they must be omnipresent because of a demanding business owner or an archaic board that mistakes delegation and capability building in an executive team for weakness.
As the pace of change and the challenge of the global economy increases, the need for effective, long‐term, corporate‐enabled mentorship activity becomes ever greater. We need to share the lead to expose others to the scar tissue of experience. Sharing the lead role contributes to the healthy development of other executives and the shaping of an agile business culture. As our guest, David Fubini told us on an Innovation Show episode on YouTube, “In the command‐and‐control past, mentorship was less important because senior executives tended to be directive, and senior staff was informed as to what was expected of them. With a bit of coaching and a great deal of performance pressure, employees would respond positively, and learning was more experiential.”
Unlike traditional top‐down‐minded executives, mentors play several critical roles in today’s flattened organizations—they are coaches, teachers, confidants, and “life influencers.” Executing mentorship well requires a considerable commitment from both companies and individuals, and therein lies a challenge. Lao Tzu beautifully captures the magic of mentorship and leadership: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”