How do you find a common denominator between a butterfly, a meteorologist, and the business community? Can managers working in London affect the leadership and management skills of those managers working in Birmingham?



If you are familiar with the “Butterfly Effect”, you will have already worked out the answer. The meteorologist was an American called Edward Lorenz, who chanced across the theory that small differences in his calculations could cause substantial changes to his simulations. On the other hand, as he put it more simply: ‘a butterfly flapping its wings in Hong Kong, can change tornado patterns in Texas.’ The “Butterfly Effect” was born out of that theory, and is now widely used in the business community. But how can the “Butterfly Effect” influence the principles of leadership?


I look no further for an answer to that than James Hunter, an American author who wrote ‘The Servant: A Simple Story about the True Essence of Leadership’. In it he wrote: “How we behave as the boss at work today affects what goes on around the dinner table in other people’s homes tonight.” 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 staff, 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.


Take the BBC’s decision to relocate some of its output to Salford, in Manchester, for instance. To the person making the decision it was simply a case of fulfilling the brief of spreading the BBC more widely around the country. The move affected the partners and their children. Some decided they just could not make the move, for one reason or another, and therefore had to start looking for alternative employment. This is an example of the “Butterfly Effect”, and demonstrates how the impact of a leadership or management decision can affect everybody else in the organisation.



Research from Gallup, in the United States, during the last decade revealed that what staff 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.


Ripple Effect
Ripple Effect

Being benign and trustworthy is one matter, but the actions of a manager under pressure, born from the principle of Chaos Theory, can also influence massively. The actions of a good leader and manager have the power to create a legacy that influences the outcomes of other people’s lives with a ripple effect that goes on for generations to come. The actions of a bad leader or manager can have devastating consequences, in both the short term and long term.


There are some important lessons for managers and leaders to take on board from the “Butterfly Effect” that are vital to participants embarking on our leadership and management training courses and we can discuss those lessons with you in London, Birmingham or Manchester.


It is too easy to underestimate the importance of good leadership skills. Little things that you do really can make a big difference even if it does not manifest itself immediately. An act of kindness may have profound effects that you never see. An act of malice can do the same. The Butterfly Effect is as valid in the workplace as it is in the home. This is why good leadership and management skills really are as essential as we have always believed them to be.


He might have been a specialist in worldwide weather patterns, but through his studies, Edward Lorenz also hit up on a vital leadership principle; one that has resonated throughout the world!


Nicholas Hill
Nicholas Hill

About the Author

Nicholas Hill runs UK wide public training courses in leadership and management development. Become a highly productive manager and influential leader today. Claim your FREE consultation to find out more. Contact us now.

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