Leadership Perspectives: The Butterfly Effect
I’ve just finished Stephen King’s book “11/22/63” about time travel. There King talks about how time harmonizes, with reminders and synchronicities pointing out the paths that sit side by side waiting for choices and decisions to create shifts.
He also speaks of the butterfly effect. Wikipedia tells us “in chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.”
Early in January, I started a conversation around a Kindness Challenge in 2013. In that short blog I spoke to you about “cause” and “effect”, a simplified version of the butterfly effect. And, I have written several related blogs about this challenge since then.
As synchronicity would have it, on Sunday our minister at Unity Spiritual Center challenged us to hold to five intentions as we live as leaders in our communities. The fourth intention he shared clearly speaks to the cause and the effect, and our ability to grow character-based leadership within our communities, our companies, and in our families.
Even if someone I have helped and of whom I had great hope, harms me without any reason, may I see him as my guide.
The purpose of this intention is to teach us how to develop and improve an experience of love. It is important to understand the relationship between actions (cause) and their effects.
The cause of problems is a negative bodily, verbal, or mental action that we created in the past; other people’s actions are only secondary conditions that enable negative patterns of the past to unfold. If the circumstance does not provide the conditions, someone or something else will. Once the cause has been established, unless we heal it through practice, nothing can stop the effect from occurring sooner or later. Instead of blaming others for my problems, we use these opportunities to deepen our understanding.
In utilizing this practice to recognize the lessons in all our experiences, we can come to view everyone and everything as a teacher. With this viewpoint in place, any and every situation can become beneficial to our growth as a leader.
My friends know how I like to “noodle” thoughts and ideas around in my head for a while until they all make sense to me and then I will share them with someone. You all are the lucky recipients today!
The butterfly effect is all about one person taking one action that reverberates around the world. As leaders, we have the unique opportunity to take small multiple actions each day that will transform the people around us over time. Thanks to chaos theory, we know that changes in the outcome are not proportional to the action that has been taken in the initial condition. Very small actions (variances) can amplify into unpredictable results (effects) (Doherty and Delener, 2001). The study of fractals, an object whose form is the same regardless of scale (Mandelbrot, 1977) and can exist in any dimension and anywhere between dimensions (Singh and Singh,2002) tells us that we can replicate actions (behavior) throughout an organization, and can facilitate improvement and growth through iterative feedback, creating order within the chaos.
What does all this mean to us as character-based leaders?
It means that over time,
- the conscious and intentional practices of our values and principles, accompanied with
- character traits such as humility, altruism, vision, trust, empowerment, service and commitment, will lead to
- these behaviors showing up at every level in the organization because those behaviors were patterned into the organizing principles at the very beginning.
- The relationship between leader/follower will spiral outward as the relationship adjusts for growth through feedback and modifying influences. This system amplifies when the feedback creates a learning experience for the leader, and ultimately results in a new leader line.
- Note that feedback can be both positive and negative. Positive feedback amplifies the growth while negative feedback stabilizes the growth.
And, finally, because of the ongoing iterations and fractal reproductions, the longer the tenure of a character-based leader, the greater number of followers should exhibit those same leadership attributes.
Sometimes the simplest things elude us, don’t they? As I stated in my Kindness Challenge 2013 blog – I would like to see a kinder, more compassionate, leadership style in our corporations, education system, our government, our places of worship and community gathering places. We can accomplish this effect by taking up the cause of kindness with a strong helping hand of compassion.
To answer my own desires about the growth of a kinder, more loving world, I must be like a mustard seed that starts small but grows large; like leaven that works its way throughout the dough; like a butterfly flapping its wings in Texas.
What butterfly effect did you create today?
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Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, and Phoenix, AZ, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life.
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