Effective leaders are careful with competition

A few days ago I was sitting by the river bank listening to the calls of various birds and watching a pair of Canada geese grazing on a yard upstream. Suddenly another pair of Canada geese glided overhead announcing their arrival with frantic honks. They flew over my head, made a sharp u-turn and splashed down right in front of the first two geese.

The male goose on the bank took off and attacked the newcomers. It was a quite violent encounter as the geese bumped chests and nipped at each other. The fight was brief as the intruders took to flight. Things calmed for a few minutes until the vanquished pair returned to once again challenge the original pair. Soon, the contenders were driven off again.

In a matter of a few days, female geese will be laying their eggs. One can already see them testing out safe places to start or continue building their families. About every thousand feet or so up and down the river pairs have staked out their territory. The males are usually in the water patrolling for danger and the females sit with her neck outstretched still as a stick.

Competition for nesting sites is increasing as the population of Canada geese, now year round inhabitants, grow. Many of the predators of such large birds such as mountain lions, bobcats and wolves have been extinct in southeastern Ohio since 1855. In the last thirty years, coyotes have made Ohio their home. Bobcats are also returning.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources confirmed over 100 sightings of bobcats each year from 2010 to 2012 and twice as many unconfirmed sightings have been reported. Unfortunately, both species are too few to limit the number of Canada geese in the area. I believe in a balance between predators and their prey. No competition means an overpopulation of a particular species on which the predators relied.

I am a big fan of competition in all types of sports. I learned a lot about myself when I played football in high school. Competition in the business world has also proven successful for us as a society. However, competition within a business may backfire. I have seen cases where teams of workers were placed in competition with one another and unexpected negative behaviors occurred. Safety and machine maintenance procedures were ignored and personal relationships became strained. Even though productivity rose, the contest had to be eliminated given the other negative outcomes.

Effective leaders are careful with competition within their organizations. Instead, they focus on external competitors.

Their vision and goals are targeted to beat those who fight for the same customers. Celebrations are held when they are successful and new goals set when they miss the mark. This type of competition can be fun and productive for all involved.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.