The Best Leaders Cultivate Butterflies!

"We are all butterflies. Earth is our chrysalis" - LeeAnn Taylor

Photo Courtesy of Stephen Poff via Compfight.com

The cold and snow have not let up one bit in the last week. Twice, we were stuck in our driveway in ice or slush. More than twice I was cursing up at the sky. I threw up my hands and took off for our local botanical garden. I needed to sweat a little and play with some butterflies. I love watching them glide through the air without a care in the world enjoying their short lives and serving out their purpose - in this case? To wow and inspire me!

We smartly visited Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park a week before their official grand opening of the "Butterflies are Blooming" annual exhibit. There were very few people there, but numerous  breeds and colors of beautiful butterflies. We were awed watching awkward butterflies slowly climbing out of their hanging chrysalises to begin a new life as soaring, free, gracious creatures. It took my breath away to think about the growth and changes that the caterpillars endured in order  to become such beautiful transformed creatures.

Watching new life break out in the butterfly bungalow
Meijer Gardens receives shipments of new chrysalises every week over a 8 week period. The chrysalises start life in the "bungalow" above. After they have adjusted to their new body they are released into a tropical oasis where it's a consistent balmy 85 degrees. There will be over 7000 butterflies during the exhibit soaring in the 5 story conservatory. It's like being in a Disney movie with them fluttering all around at different heights and in so many colors and sizes. The butterflies hail from places like Africa, Asia, South and Central America. There are species like Long Wing Heliconius, Common Morpho, Scarlet Mormon, and streaked Tree Nymph butterflies. They sip on fresh fruit and sweet water while enjoying flight above Orange Jasmine, Bahama Buttercup, and Mexican Honeysuckle. It's breath taking and so tranquil! Imagine becoming a butterfly.....Meijer Gardens

Why are we so fascinated by butterflies?

  • They have unattainable freedom, grace, independence, and seem invincible.
  • They are spectacular with unique colors or different wing spans and shapes.
  • Butterflies glide through the air without any care in the world. They enjoy life and get to visit so many beautiful flowers.
  • Each butterfly is so unique. You can be the ugliest caterpillar on earth and morph into a colorful, powerful butterfly.
  • Butterflies seem to have a purpose. They essentially start life as "worms" and live in order to change themselves into something new.
  • Butterflies inspire us. We are all fascinated by them. As kids, almost all of us captured a caterpillar and nurtured it to see what it can become. Monarchs were my favorites!
  • Butterflies tease us into imagining how it feels to become something else. Something better then before.
  • Butterflies represent life or a new beginning. Don't we all dream of that at some point in our lives?
  • Butterflies urge me to be the best that I can be so that I can grow and serve out my own purpose.
Leadership and butterflies are alike!

I have managed people for over 25 years. My favorite part has always been mentoring people while watching them grow and develop. I likened my new team members to young caterpillars. They were inexperience or lacked knowledge in a variety of areas. We worked together to develop new skills and gave them a shot at new experiences. Over time, they grew and became increasingly more independent. Like butterflies, there came a time when my people were "released" out into the world bound for new ventures. It didn't matter if they moved up in our company or left us for a better opportunity. I was always so proud . I love to see people grow and advance. They took up the challenge and strived to grow and develop. They spread their wings and were ready to glide off into the world. My butterflies were "free".

Effective leaders mentor butterflies. Bad leaders are left with caterpillars!
We all come into this world out of a cocoon, young and naive. We learn, grow, experience failures and rewards, and we strive to strike out on our own into the world. We take flight and 1.2.3. Go! It's up to each of us to decide how far we dare to spread our wings and where we are willing to fly. Some of us are more successful than others. Many of us are fortunate to have support during our growth and we are pushed to spread those beautiful wings a bit wider and to soar much higher. Perhaps we had a leader that influenced our growth and our flight out into the world. As a leader, you may have the opportunity and gifts to guide someone's growth. Help them morph and spread their wings. Are you up to the challenge?
How to guide others to grow and take flight:
  • Let people make mistakes and don't hold it against them. Allow them to mature, grow, and learn from them.
  • Don't mother someone or over protect them. They will fear change and striking out on their own.
  • Don't fix everything. Force people to detect and solve problems independently.
  • Show trust, win trust.
  • Show respect, win respect. Not hard is it? 
  • Listen, listen, listen. Talk less. Sit back and allow others to find solutions, create, and bring new ideas to the table.
  • Don't criticize or belittle new ideas or ways of doing things. See #1 for guidance.
  • Search for ways to bring out the potential in others. Get to know your people and what makes them tick.
  • Focus on someone's strengths, not their weaknesses. Other team members can compensate for weak areas.
  • Reflect and encourage a positive attitude. It's contagious. A positive attitude spurs people to do their best. They feel less fear and apprehension.
  • Be enthusiastic so that others can internalize and use it to take bigger steps towards success.
  • Share your weaknesses, mistakes, lessons learned. Be human. With an experienced role model, people feel more steady and will take on bigger challenges and new projects.
  • Teach through story telling. A part of all of our childhoods were great books and stories. They grew with us and enabled us to see the "bigger" world. Your stories will do the same. People respond to stories and can see themselves in them.
  • Challenge people. Don't let them retreat back into their cocoon or fold in their wings. We all need to be forced to take steps that frighten or intimidate us. Push people in little ways to open those wings.
  • Stay curious and innovative. Live it every day. It shows people what you value and that it's important to you. People are like kids and model what they see. You want them  to model what will grow and challenge them.
  • Truly be authentic and believe in others. Close your ears to rumors or the past. Allow each person to start anew so that YOU can see what their "stage" is and how you can help them grow into their first "flight". Let them prove themselves to you first so that you can see firsthand the path they are choosing.

What are YOU going to do today to start cultivating butterflies?


Photo Courtesy of Wolfpix vai Compfight