To define leadership is like trying to catch a butterfly. I run around the garden, net poised in hand on a beautiful spring day. I see a thing of beauty and elegance – the complexity of the pattern on the butterfly’s wings enchants me as I try to take a closer look. An understanding of how hard the butterfly has worked to come into being inspires me and the thought of all that effort, all that beauty but for one day of life! Twenty four hours of living and then its gone. What kind of an impact does the butterfly have in our world? Yet twenty four hours is a complete lifetime for that butterfly. As I think these thoughts, I enjoy the sense of freedom that the butterfly experiences as it dances in the air. As soon as the butterfly flits closer to my net and I think I have it, it elegantly flies away again. After a while, I’m exhausted. I have tried my best and I decide to let the butterfly go.
Similarly with leadership. Leadership is a thing of beauty, complexity, energy, freedom and purpose. It is found in every area of life, yet what is it? Some may define it as being in charge of getting tasks done. Others may say that it is about getting people into action. Some may think that it refers to the charismatic type of leadership that inspires organisations, communities and even nations and others may reflect on the kind of leadership it takes to raise a child. Just like the butterfly, as soon as we think we have a clear definition, it seems to flutter by, making room for another idea to come in, hence augmenting and enhancing the original definition. It seems to encompass all the definitions mentioned and more. When we look at it closely, we understand the complexity within it that can’t be bound by a single definition or way of being as a leader. Leadership requires freedom to evolve and purpose in which to set its foundation. It is a place of influence, inspiration and action and yet it is generated from a place within.
Just like the butterfly, the leader will exist for a defined period of time, with the sincere hope that the beauty, complexity, freedom and purpose will remain for much longer.