Getting lessons in leadership from hungry fish
Scores of people take expensive management training to learn how to guide colleagues toward a common goal, but maybe they could get less costly lessons by watching how certain fish take the lead in their schools. After training about 90 golden shiners (Notemigonus crysoleucas, seen above) to find a dish of fish food, scientists tagged these potential leaders, released them back in the tank individually with eight untrained fish, and then waited to see what would happen. In some cases, a veteran fish swam around as if it had never been in the tank before, leaving its schoolmates equally confused. Others made a beeline for the soggy fare and were more likely to reach it, but in their haste failed to communicate with fellow fish and left them in their wake. Most of the trained shiners, however, were effective leaders; just assertive enough to indicate which direction the school should travel but not so assertive that they lost the group and the protection it provided, the scientists report online before print in The American Naturalist. The study is the first to show experimentally that such a tradeoff—between achieving a goal as quickly as possible and keeping followers—exists in animals other than humans, possibly revealing some fundamental component of good leadership, the researchers say. So, the next time you need to get your colleagues to meet a deadline, why not give channeling your inner golden shiner a try?