Butterflies and Leaders

Butterflies and LeadersOver the course of my career, I have been challenged to take on new and different leadership roles. For the past 17 years as a consultant, this is a regular occurrence. The most daunting experience for me was when I started my first consulting business. It took me far outside my comfort zone. I went from having not one, but two executive assistants, to looking at my calendar and having nothing booked for days. I went from a regular paycheck and paid benefits to having to “eat what I killed.” While I relished the thought of doing real work rather than sitting in meetings or behind a very large wooden desk, the reality of having to do it all myself was scary. This was so much harder than I had ever imagined.

As things got rolling, it was a struggle to meet all the demands on my time. And there’s always a snafu somewhere along the way too. On one of those tough days, a friend shared a story with me — one about a butterfly…
I know, I know. What can butterflies have to do with business leadership? As I reflect on my work with executives across industries, and with companies of all sizes and stages of maturity, I have been fortunate to know many butterflies going through reincarnation!

The high performing/high potential leader-butterfly wakes up one day to find they are reborn in a new role as a caterpillar. After a short while, the lowly caterpillar goes inside its cocoon to build the strength and wisdom required to emerge as a highly effective new leader-butterfly. Along the way, the new leader has to establish their new identity, essentially fighting for their release from the cocoon. And it’s a struggle, a big one. No one can help because if anyone or anything helps it emerge, the wings won’t develop. It won’t have the strength to fly. It will die.

You see, it’s the struggle that gives it the ability to become the beautiful creature it was born to be.
Being in business, especially as a small business owner, is much the same. If we don’t want to deal with the trials and tribulations, or if someone tries to take over and solve our problems for us, we can’t grow. Then we won’t learn and develop the skills that we need to become stronger ourselves.

I think that I’m very much like the butterfly still in the cocoon. And that is a good thing. It helps me to be open to new thoughts, people and things, and serves as the basis for my learning. I have to be patient, allowing myself, and my business, to grow and develop. And trust me, patience has not always been my strong suit! But if I push too hard, too soon, or if I avoid facing the tough stuff, I risk my personal and professional success. I’m still all about using resources and having people help me when appropriate. But I’ve realized that I can’t use those resources to do things I’m simply trying to avoid. I’m the one pushing forward. I’m the one responsible. I’m accountable for my own success.

Who knew a butterfly could teach me so much?

People in transition from and to new roles in life, and those stuck in the middle have always been important to me. I have made several transitions in my life and probably have a couple more in front of me. My first was really big and I could not afford to pay the professional who was so helpful to me. So, I made a decision to just “pay it forward,” something I have never regretted. I encourage all my professional and personal friends to do the same without any expectation for anything in return. Transitions are hard. We have all experienced this. Reach out! ‬