Leadership Skills and the Butterfly Effect

By Tim Cummuta

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Leaders use the butterfly effect to unlock the potential of others. Emerson demonstrates there is great potential in leadership skills. As Emerson clearly demonstrates, there is great potential in the human mind in each of us. Leaders are bewildered by the fact that individuals cannot grasp the premise that they can do greater things.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

We see two children playing side-by-side. They are equal at the tasks before them. But one will grow to be a great scientist, and the other will never accomplish anything of significance. What is the difference?

It can be environmental or experiential. It can be a host of many different things. It could potentially be the Butterfly Effect from some small thing or things that will change the course for one, sending them in a different direction than the other.

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect is a philosophical question: A butterfly flutters its wings in China. Two months later, a hurricane hits England.

Did the subtle changes in air currents in China from the butterfly cause the hurricane in England? Within Chaos Theory, the answer could be yes.

How does this relate to management theory? One thing it relates to in management theory is attitude.

Can one individual’s attitude, good or bad, impact the organization significantly? The simple answer is yes. Leaders often consider this question when evaluating people in their organization. But the one individual that has the most impact on the organization is the leader.

This then begs the question, what is the leader’s attitude? No one individual or group of individuals has more impact on the organization than those at the top.

The leader’s attitude can subtly shift the organizational direction dynamically and substantially over time.

The Butterfly Effect on Team

Personal Attitudes

Without willful action toward creating the right personal attitude, the natural attitude will ultimately surface, giving away the person. The importance here is that the organization is watching the leadership team. What they perceive in and from the leadership team will be utilized to derive their own personal attitudes about the present and future.

In a poor economic environment, everyone would be impacted at work, at home, and even socially. I may be feeling pressure at home, which has the potential to impact my subconscious.

This can, in turn, surface in some fashion at work. It may be a shorter temper than usual. It may surface as a tired or exhausted presence. The individuals watching me do not know or understand what is currently motivating my actions. They will most likely misjudge and take away something negative from my presence or actions.

Enough Motivation

In working with many managers and owners, I often hear, “The employees’ jobs should be enough motivation for them to do their best. After all, if they leave, there are ten people behind them waiting for their job.” I could probably add, “I rest my case.” to such a comment.

Far too many leaders use intimidation and fear as motivational tools. The end result of such management techniques is that the good people, those with real talent, end up leaving for better work environments.

This leaves those that feel they cannot go anywhere else. Those left behind are often not equipped to work at an exceptional level.

Attitude is a Decision

Attitude is a Decision

Leaders can control their personal attitude, even in high-pressure work situations.

The important factor to remember is that a personal attitude is a decision. One decides to react to the environment in a particular manner. One person loses control, and another person has a calming effect, both from the same situation.

Great leaders bring the right attitude from the moment into the present situation. They decide to react in a certain manner to impact those around them.

One only must consider great leaders around us today. Did Bill Gates ever face any negative situations? I am sure he has. Yet Microsoft is considered one of the best companies to work for in the world.

Did Bill Gates face any high pressure in his tenure with his company? Of course, he did. One cannot build such an enormous enterprise without facing tumultuous and negative situations repeatedly. Attitude permeates an organization from the top down.

Changing Attitudes

Successful people have learned to have a successful attitude regardless of the environment. This is one of the major reasons that the industry of personal coaching has become so large. When one engages a personal coach, one of the first tools the personal coach uses is a personality profile analysis.

The need to change some things is as important as the need to learn some things. Another paraphrase from Emerson is: if you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!

The need to change some things is as important as the need to learn some things. Another paraphrase from Emerson is: if you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!

What is the difference? Attitude! One can have a great attitude during the worst circumstances because attitude is a choice. Consider great leaders during the war. Military leaders throughout history have often faced overwhelming odds, sometimes surrounded, and yet found a way to succeed.

Business is no different. When faced with overwhelming odds, some leaders snatch victory out of defeat. How often has a leadership change brought a company back from the brink of failure?

Taking Responsibility

The buck stops here! A leader must take responsibility for the attitude they present. A leadership team must take responsibility for the attitude it presents.

Einstein’s axiom comes to mind. His definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. If the company has a bad or negative attitude, look at the leader or leaders’ attitude first.

The butterfly effect can work both ways. The effect can be a seriously negative attitude that propagates throughout the organization, ultimately leading to failure. Or, it can be an optimistic, positive attitude that can energize the organization on to higher and higher levels of success and productivity.

The leadership team will decide what the overall attitude will be for the organization.

Attitude cannot be legislated. Attitude comes from within and is the window of the person. People will see what the leaders believe by simply watching them react day in and day out. My father used to say to me, “I cannot hear you because your actions speak too loudly.”

How Can Leaders Unleash the Butterfly Effect?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Would you like to contribute a post?

Tim Cummuta
Tim Cummuta
Tim is a Business Consultant in Strategic Planning, Productivity, HR, Sales & Marketing, and Risk Management. He has a Master’s Degree in Financial Planning and is pursuing a Ph.D in Organization & Management at Capella University.
  • David McCuistion says:

    A quote by President Abarham Lincoln says, “People will be just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Leaders who have a high level of emotional intelligence will control the attitude they project equally through all kinds of crisis. However, to build a strong working relationship with employees, that attitude needs to be one of that remains positive in order to proplerly react to major negative situations.

    That doesn’t mean one has to always run around with a smile on their face, which a lot of times is read as a facade. Even an Eagle smiles once in a while, it just requires an astitute observation to see it.

  • Tim Cummuta says:

    Very interesting comment David. I was just discussing the subject of always staying positive with a young protégé today. It is difficult at times but can be done. You’re right, as a leader we are under scrutiny at all times by those that count on us to be steady. If we lose it what will their response be?

  • F. E. Starks says:

    Tim, this is a fantastic review of a phenomenon that will have either a positive or negative impact on organizations! Your outline of steps that leaders may take to yield a desirable outcome is clear and timely. Suggestions offered also provide an example of how to become more successful in the face of what appears to be an unsurmountable feat! I enjoyed this article tremendously.

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