Leadership Advantage – The Butterfly Effect
The term ‘butterfly effect’ was first coined by Edward Norton Lorenz. He was an American mathematician and meteorologist and a pioneer of chaos theory, who chanced across the theory that small changes can have a big effect.
In other words, the actions we take, the words we use, even the priorities we set, can trigger the butterfly effect in the lives of teams, colleagues, and clients; indeed, everyone we come across. Leaders and managers can have much more of an impact than they may believe, for good or for bad. A seemingly small decision taken at work can have a huge impact on someone’s life, be it rejecting someone for promotion, or asking him/her to relocate to another area of the business.
Leaders by the very fact that they are in position of power and responsibility can have a big impact on the people around them. And in my experience, an underrated way of doing this is my small actions.
Research from Gallup, during the last decade revealed that, what employees wanted from their managers was trust, stability, hope and compassion. Therefore, the positive “butterfly effect” from leaders begins with the ability to demonstrate those virtues during their daily encounters with their staff.
There are some important lessons to take on board from the “butterfly effect” that are vital to people embarking on leadership and management journeys and I wanted to outline a few in this article:-
- Don’t underestimate the importance of your own behaviour: Little things that you do can make a difference even if there is no immediately apparent result. An act of kindness may have profound effects that you never see. An act of malice can do the same.
- Don’t give up too soon: Even if you don’t see the kinds of results you want right away, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing the wrong things. Be patient. Complex change takes time. Teamwork is not a simple thing to accomplish. Teams are made up of complex beings in highly intricate relationships.
- Take risks: Things that feel scary may turn out to be more useful and powerful than you can ever imagine. Respectfully confronting an undesirable behavior of a colleague, or even a boss, can sometimes have a refreshingly positive outcome
- Don’t assume: Especially when it comes to the motives and intentions of other people, don’t be too quick to interpret their reasons or assign blame. Stay focused on what you want to accomplish and how your own actions may help you get there. We don’t know why others behave as they do. Trying to figure that out may prevent you from acting in ways that will further your goals.
This is in contrast to the big gestures, vision and actions we typically think of when we talk about leadership. With respect to work culture, the butterfly effect is very much in play: even small adjustments to a leader’s style or a team’s dynamics can reap large benefits to both their colleagues and the organisation as a whole.