Ray is holding a bee hive.

Essential Leadership Lessons That We Can Learn from Bees

From communications to driving shared purpose and outcomes, here are three ways bees have reinforced my leadership style

By: Ray Kunik, Resideo Digital Leader and aspiring Beekeeper

Did you know that you have bees to thank for some of the most common food groups that you eat? Fruits, nuts and vegetables are all pollinated by bees, and 70 out of the top 100 human foods are pollinated by bees.

There are more than 20,000 species of bees buzzing in hives around the globe, yet climate change, pesticides, disease and habitat loss are putting many bee species on the endangered species list. Honeybees, which are one of the more well-known bee species and make up just a fraction of the overall population, perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide. 

Ray Kunik's headshot. A bee’s work ethic is inspiring; in fact, one bee can pollinate 5,000 plants in one day. And if you think that’s amazing you’ll be amazed at a hive’s volume of production: to make one pound of honey, a hive of bees must travel more than 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers.

All these reasons and more are what inspired me to become a beekeeper, or an ‘apiarist’ as it’s called in the beekeeping world. In addition to helping the planet and our food supply, I've observed several leadership themes while caring for and tending to my bees and their hives.

While this hobby is mostly for enjoyment, here are a few lessons learned at the hive that also translate well to real, work-life examples.

  • 1. Strong communication and information sharing is at the center of great team performance.

    Bees depend on a complex system of vibrations and pheromones to pass signals and information across each other and the greater hive. This hive communication network is the backbone of the team accomplishing great things! Beehives are the ultimate example of being a united, “One Team” as witnessed by their communication and collaboration.

    Our own Resideo environment has a multitude of digital tools and platforms to communicate, share and collaborate within and across teams and customers. These tools are only as powerful as how we collectively and effectively use them – with honesty and integrity, transparency and velocity. In my few years at Resideo, I’ve come to know that innovation and transformation is a team sport. Trust is the true currency of velocity.

  • 2. Collective cooperation to the goal powers greater team and organization success.

    The average worker honeybee makes just one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime! Or in other words, 12 bees – together – can make 1 teaspoon! At first glance, this seems small and insignificant until we consider it in context of the entire hive and network of bees. Though their work seems small, it directly contributes to a larger goal that’s only possible through team cooperation. This is a fantastic analogy for many projects and team roles across Resideo. At times it can feel like our individual work and pursuit of an individual or small team goal doesn’t matter or carry a real impact. However, together our collective work and intelligence can accomplish great things and produce truly valuable and life impacting customer solutions.

    Our Resideo whole home vision of powered connected services is the embodiment of team collaboration: from individual device sensors and data and analytics, to the customer experience that brings it all together and helps make our customers’ lives safer, more comfortable and energy efficient.

  • 3. Leaders are here to serve the team and help drive clarity of focus.

    Ray is holding a bee's nesting board.At first glance, the queen bee may strike you as serving as the overlord and dictator of her hive... sitting idly by while her workers bring home the nectar. In fact, the queen serves an indispensable role for the hive by providing a steady and reliable source of eggs (workers/talent) to ensure the long-term survival of the colony. It’s the team behaving as one that drives hive success, not a benevolent leader dictating rules to the hive.

    At Resideo, I view my role as a digital leader to help create the environment and conditions for team success. This plays out in many ways including ensuring clarity on our shared goals, helping to remove key barriers and roadblocks that inhibit team success and empowering the team members to take ownership and action in pursuit of our collective goals. Helping others “bee” their best selves. Innovate, collaborate, and win!

I trust that you’ve learned a few things about the power of bees and how the “One Team” mantra can help fuel organizational success. Do you have a hobby that parallels and drives insights into your day job? If so, tell me on LinkedIn – I'd love to hear of your learnings!

And if you want to see a beehive in action or learn more about beehive management, there’s a professional beekeeper that receives nearly 100 million views on her TikTok videos. Erika Thompson “saves the bees” that build hives in unusual places and would otherwise face an exterminator. She is based here in Austin where I live and it’s fascinating to see how she helps the bees through their hive change and helps build a healthy ecosystem.

Bee safe everyone!