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Leadership Lessons from a Butterfly

I recently noticed a monarch butterfly as it softly landed on a bush across the street from my house. My curiosity got the better of me and I did some poking around to see what I could learn about butterflies. I discovered that butterflies and caterpillars have a lot to teach us about leadership.

First, letting go is a necessary trait of leadership. A butterfly emerges from the cocoon because a caterpillar let go of something in order to become something else. Times of uncertainty are a normal part of becoming a leader. During these times, we must let go of that which would restrict us in order to embrace that which would enable us to soar to the heights.

Second, solitude provides space and time for transformation. When the caterpillar is full-grown and stops eating, it becomes a chrysalis and suspends itself under a branch or hides in leaves. During times of change, leaders need to go “dormant” and give their body and mind a transformational environment. Outwardly, it may not appear to others that anything is happening. However, immense change is happening within the leader. This stage may last a few weeks, a month, or even longer.

Third, everything we consume will nourish our new form. During the first “feeding stage,” the caterpillar’s job is to eat enormous amounts of food, which is used for transforming itself into a butterfly. In order to experience continual growth and transformation, a leader must be continually consuming knowledge and pursuing new experiences which will feed the future development of the leader.

Fourth, if nothing changes, nothing changes. In order to develop into a new creature, a butterfly goes through a process called metamorphosis, which has four stages. Each stage is fully dependent on the other. While change can at times feel painful, if leaders do not allow themselves to go through the stages of change, nothing will ultimately change and they will never experience the joy of flight.

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