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Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead

February 15th, 2018

In a “should read” for leaders of most small to mid-sized businesses, Belasco and Stayer challenge today’s leaders to change their management styles from “managing” to team-based management. This book introduces the process of Leading the Journey: changing one’s behavior from being lead buffalo to being lead goose.

by James A. Belasco and Ralph C. Stayer
Warner Books, 1994 – 355 pages $14.99

The analogy to buffalo is apt: If the lead buffalo is killed, the herd will stand—easy targets for hunters. The classic manager is, metaphorically, the lead buffalo: the individual who directs all day-to-day operations of the company and expects subordinates to defer all important decis

Review by M. Dana Baldwin

ions to the top.

In contrast, geese rotate leadership regularly and frequently, enabling each member to be responsible for the appropriate course and direction of the team, and allowing each to rest and recuperate from the additional work of leading the flight, as needed. Applying the buffalo and goose metaphor to management suggests that within a management team, members of the team alternately lead and support, as situations dictate.

The book uses numerous examples from Stayer’s early years as CEO of Johnsonville Foods to illustrate the consequences of his “Lead Buffalo” autocratic management style: fear of initiative by subordinates, inhibited imagination, stagnation and inertia. Then, he learned to Lead The Journey and fostered goose-like, rather than buffalo-like behavior. The results are compelling.

At the same time, the authors report the challenges people encounter in re-learning their positions and responsibilities in a team-based environment. At Johnsonville, some made the transition; others had to be replaced.

Flight of the Buffalo uses summaries, checklists, and diverse examples to explain why and how to make the evolution from hierarchical to team-based management. The CEO who changes from the lead buffalo to the lead goose will increase the flexibility, commitment and effectiveness of the management team and the company. Several CEOs of firms that use Simplified Strategic
Planning
 have made this book required reading for their management teams.

For more information or to order your copy of Flight of the Buffalo, visit Amazon.com.

Are you the lead buffalo or the lead goose?  Attend the Simplified Strategic Planning Seminar to learn ways to become lead goose as well as all other aspects of Simplified Strategic Planning.

M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: baldwin@cssp.com

© Copyright 2018 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, MI — Reprint permission granted with full attribution

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