Four Birds on a Branch

The three birds flew through the cloudy skies of northern California due north on that brisk January morning. The three friends; a Crow, a Pigeon and a Blue Jay, would have made a strange picture had anyone with a camera and telephoto lens had the mind to snap a shot. Much higher in altitude, hundreds of Canadian Geese flew in perfect V formation in exactly the opposite direction.

“Hey,” squawked the crow, “there’s another group of Canadians flying in the wrong direction. Why do you suppose they are so confused?” She tried to point upwards with her right wing, instead she banked quickly to the left ramming the pigeon.

“Ouch,” yelled the pigeon, “that hurt!”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to bump you. But I’m worried about those Canadians,” replied the crow. “They are flying in the wrong direction, aren’t they?”

“If we are flying in the right direction, then they must be flying in the wrong direction,” sang the blue jay (it’s how they talk). “After all, we are being led by a Homing Pigeon. She knows where she is going.”
Both the blue jay and the crow looked at the pigeon for assurance. While none of the three birds knew north from south, or east from west for that matter, the crow assumed the pigeon did. The pigeon unfortunately assumed that the crow, whom always squawked the loudest, must have the best idea where to go otherwise why would she be so loud, and therefore followed her. The blue jay loved the melodic sound of its singing, and usually listen to her own voice much more closely than the words of others. She didn’t like being bothered by the little things in life, like where to go and when, so she left those decisions to others. The crow and pigeon, were equally clueless as the blue jay in knowing where to go as winter arrived.

“I’m a homing pigeon that is true, but that means I can find home. Should my home be to the north, then perhaps we will find it,” said a not too confident pigeon.

“So, you don’t know where your home is?” shouted the crow.

“I’ll know it if I see it,” said the pigeon defensively, throwing her beak backwards and speeding up. As the pigeon sped up so did the cold wind blowing directly in the path of the three unknowingly confused birds. They flapped their wings harder but their groundspeed slowed to almost a crawl. (Birds crawl slow, too.)

“We should land and rest,” shouted the crow. “It’s getting too hard to fly and I’m very cold.” They dropped toward a small grove of redwood trees looking for shelter. Near the center, about 20 feet off the ground, they landed in a flurry of outstretched feet and fluttering wings on a branch that would give shelter from the wind and cold. They hadn’t yet noticed the large multicolored Peacock resting on the same branch.

“Hello friends,” welcomed the peacock. “Please rest and warm up; there is plenty of room for all of us.” Her voice was soothing and melodic like the blue jay, but fuller and more powerful, like an orchestra. “Where are you going?”

The pigeon confidently replied for the group, “We are headed north for the winter.”

“I believe, we birds are to fly south for the winter and north for the summer,” corrected the peacock. Her voice was strong and seemed assured of her position. “Did your parents teach you NSSW?”

“Of course they did,” answered the crow, pigeon and blue jay together. “We studied that before leaving the nest like all the other birds in our town.”

“But,” said the crow, “I don’t recall exactly what is stands for; do you?” questioned the crow of his flying partners. Their silence answered the question.

“It means, North Summer; South Winter,” explained the peacock. “All children are taught this in school so they will not get lost as adults. It has been passed down for thousands of years.” The three lost travelers were embarrassed and heartbroken. How could they have forgotten what is so fundamental to their upbringing; to their entire way of life.

Sensing their distress, the Peacock calmly said, “Don’t worry. I know the way home to sunshine and warmth. Follow me.” And so they did.


HR practitioners call it groupthink. “Groupthink occurs when a group with a particular agenda makes irrational or problematic decisions because its members value harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation.” Sometimes when part of a group or team we think the person who speaks the loudest and most has the best answer. Other times we don’t know enough about a subject to make an informed choice, but are too embarrassed to ask for help, so we go along with the group’s choice. Sometimes we just don’t care, so we let someone else decide our fate.

After considering the plight of these four travelers two thoughts come to mind. The first is respect yourself enough to do the hard work to understand your position in any circumstance. Don’t let the loan officer at the auto dealership know more than you about interest rates, financing fees, and insurance. Be prepared; knowledge is power so be the most powerful person in the room. Two, when choosing a person that you will bestow the power and prestige of being your leader, choose wisely. In this story, the Peacock is kind, and welcoming. She knows something is wrong by the direction the three birds are travelling. The leader in your company establishes the vision and mission, so everyone knows the direction they should be heading. The leader crates a roadmap. A leader shouldn’t embarrass someone for making a mistake. Instead, like the peacock, a good leader offers to help correct the problem, reserving judgement until all facts are known. Most importantly, a leader must recognize that they work for the people that are being led. Leaders must understand that they are the servant to those they lead.

Which bird might you be? Do you shout the loudest like the crow, or love to hear you own voice like the blue jay? Are you leading without preparation like the pigeon, or do you quietly serve and help others, without being asked, as does the peacock? There are as any different people as there are species of birds, making each of us a unique individual, our own personal souring soul whose reactions to what confronts us each day our own answer. Our individual direction.

You plot your own personal course, and when it is necessary to follow someone, choose a leader whose ethics and character aligns with yours.

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