Helen Green

Leading Benefits

Scientists from the University of Melbourne have demonstrated that when it comes to insects, larvae that follow a leader to eat put on more weight than those who don’t.

In a study of Sawfly larvae which typically forage in large groups, the scientists not only identified leaders and followers but showed that groups containing just leaders or just followers fared worse than those with a mix of both.

Interestingly, in the mixed groups the leaders also fared better, showing that mixed groups benefitted all participants. The scientist’s next task is to identify what differentiates a leader from a follower and why mixed groups benefit to such an extent. The study is interesting because it casts a spotlight for the first time on the way in which Sawflys act in a cooperative group, in contrast to some other animal groups, such as wolves, which very much work under the dominant leader model.

This naturally begs the question about which type of leadership is more natural in human society. We’ve seen examples of democratic leadership and dominant leadership in action and know which we prefer. In part the answer may be related to external factors with leadership being modified in response to prevailing conditions. Certainly, the leadership model which currently rises to the fore is one which operates within the 5 practices of:

  1. Modelling the way
  2. Inspiring a shared vision
  3. Challenging the process
  4. Enabling others to act
  5. Encouraging the heart

And like the sawfly, that’s a model which benefits both leaders and the rest of their team.