S. Somasegar is the corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft. Learn more about Somasegar.
I spent a day with the leaders in my division recently at an off-site. The focus of that day was not about technology but rather excellence in leadership and how we work together as an effective leadership team. One of the anecdotes that I mentioned there was something I recently read related to migratory birds in flight. This study found that a large flock of birds in a V-formation can fly at least 70% further than a bird flying on its own. They accomplished this significant efficiency due to several reasons. Birds at the back of the V have to work much less by taking advantage of the draft that is created for them. Accordingly, when a bird in the front of the V gets tired, it will drop out of the lead position and fall further back in order to rest. As well, the V configuration improves visual contact and communication, minimizing the possibility of losing birds along the way since it has been observed that the stronger birds will drop back from the pack and escort sick or tired birds until they either recover or die.
I like to tell this story because of how natural teamwork should be and the significant benefits that can be gained when there is good communication and clear vision of the group’s goals by all members. However, this story also highlights the importance of individual excellence and leadership. Every bird in the V-formation at some point assumes the leadership role at the front of the V. Similarly, each member of my leadership team has a key responsibility to drive the priorities and vision for the business area they own, while at the same time being able to understand how that fits into the overall vision of the Division and Microsoft.