It started when a Monarch butterfly appeared in my garden, lighting on the only milkweed plant in the yard. My leadership & life lesson was about to begin:

I discover that Monarchs lay tiny, pinpoint-sized eggs ONLY on milkweed. The tiny caterpillars (larvae) emerge and begin gorging ONLY on milkweed, stripping it down to the stalk. Horrified that the yellow/black caterpillars will run out of food, I race to the nursery. Three trips to the nursery!  $10 every time per plant. The little buggers are voracious and multiplying like grains of sand.

LESSON 1: Know what feeds you and what feeds the team.

Humans are no different. What really feeds our spirit and helps us come alive? A great leader knows what her soul needs. She asks and astutely listens to what "feeds" various stakeholders to make their spirits soar and their talents shine.  She attempts to supply that - within reason. There is a limit to how many "$10 plants" can be bought.

When the caterpillar senses it has fed enough (and also shed's its skin at least 4 times) it seeks a sheltered spot from which to hang and become a pupa - a chrysalis of lime green color with gold markings. Here, a literal transformation occurs.

LESSON 2: Transformation requires time alone. Break down precedes breakthrough.

Great leaders and innovators like Steven Jobs, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Lucille Ball, Bill Gates, and Einstein are but a few who were summarily rejected. Like the lowly caterpillar, these people took themselves away to think, to be quiet, and then to return from a breakdown to major breakthroughs. Few would have suspected that so much talent waited to be shared with the world.

Within the chrysalis, what was once a caterpillar and now a pupa has every cell ready to reformulate into wings, abdomen, eyes, thorax, blood vessels, and coloration. Nothing is added but time and the mysterious biological miracle of metamorphosis.

LESSON 3: We already have everything we need for transformation.

It's been with us all along. We just need to repackage, re-purpose, and re-emerge. The miracle of watching these winged creatures along an almost fictional journey provides great instruction for any of us seeking to up our game, to play bigger, to create more meaning, to experience adventure, and to participate more fully in whatever contribution we can make.

Perhaps it is time for us (and for me) to put away the behavioral journals, the scientific assessments, the marketing meetings, the competitive analysis, and stop.

What is our next transformation? What feeds our souls?

Go fly away. Become the caterpillar. Shroud yourself in the glistening green of your inner world. I can't wait to see what emerges.

© 2014, The Resiliency Group. Publication rights granted to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made live.

Author's Bio: 

Eileen McDargh is a Hall of Fame professional speaker, management consultant, resiliency expert and top thought-leader in leadership. Visit The Resiliency Group website at to get her free quarterly e-zine, read her blog and articles. Discover why hundreds of satisfied clients from all over the globe hire Eileen to keynote at their meetings and facilitate their retreats.