The Butterfly Effect

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A butterfly flaps its wings in Pekin and a storm is created in Florida“. This is one of the typical sentences heard when chaos theory comes along. How leadership and mentoring could be introduced using this concept?.

In this post, you will not find a deep analysis of the chaos theory neither the mathematical analysis from Edward Lorenz, but you will find how this theory is reflected in the leadership and mentoring aspects of professional life. Engage!.

A plot of the Lorenz attractor for values r = 28, σ = 10, b = 8/3;
A plot of the Lorenz attractor for values r = 28, σ = 10, b = 8/3. CC BY-SA 3.0

How a great professional is made? Is it something a person borns with? Is it something that is learned? how leadership influences the people led?. From my point of view, all those questions are linked together. But let’s start from the beginning. Not from the early times of a human person (I don’t want to go so psychological) but from the standpoint of a junior person that starts on her/his first tech company.

The Butterfly Effect movie portrait
The Butterfly Effect (2004) – IMDB

The Butterfly Effect movie, from 2004, bases its trunk on the fact that your future can change based on the experiences that you see and you feel since you are a young person, and how they impact you. I truly believe this. If you saw the movie, most probably you already predict that I’ll talk about the different ways in which a fresh/young career in a tech company can be impacted, based on the leadership and mentoring (even coaching) that will drive that young person.

When you are young, you usually look at the world with wide-opened eyes. You try to absorb as much as possible (you learned that in college) because you believe that everything you learn now will help you in the future. Any kind of leader should be aware of this.

The dark side

I think there are good leaders and bad leaders, even though there are different ways of leadership and people like to be led in different ways. I think 99% of the times a “bad leader” does not realize that the leadership he/she exercises is wrong. Because of different reasons, like the way she/he was led by its predecessor in the past, a leader can impact in a really negative way over people around in a certain range.

The Butterfly Effect - Scene 2 kids frighten

People get from leaders the good and the bad. If your leadership exposes only bad practices, the people you lead will follow your way in the future. Even worst, they will not become the best version of themselves, when actually they could be. There are many professionals that have seen their career truncated because they fell into a company with the wrong leadership on top. When you are young, sometimes is difficult to learn good practices only seen bad practices.

The bright side

I’ve just mentioned and I’ll do it again: People get from leaders the good and the bad. This is life, but also means that it’s predictable and you can do something about it. Lead by example.

Do you like Pain au Chocolat? It’s really good stuff. After some tough days of hard work, setting up new parts of complex infrastructure as a service, you feel really exhausted. One day, you find your leader joining the daily coffee-break in the morning with a small box of Pain au Chocolat, to share and celebrate the success of those difficult days. An insignificant action? maybe yes, even from the leader side; any impact on the team? you never know. Maybe for some, it’s simply great that somebody came along with a delicious (and free!) breakfast but, for others, maybe, it was a game-changing action, making people more engaged. Cause, effect. Little things matter.

Just a simple and unexpected breakfast can make people happy and make a difference.

As a leader, you should understand the people around you, find the best way they learn, work and grow, think about their goals and make them yours, so you will be able to find the right path for them to follow up and succeed.

The Butterfly Effect - "I hate you" sceen

Leadership and mentoring are hard, and sometimes you have to drive people through ways which they neither expect nor understand. Take the hard choice when you truly believe it’s the best way for helping them. Leadership is not about recognition, it’s about helping people to succeed.


I’ve seen many times (more than I would like to) people with great talent, a hidden gem, with great potential, but working under wrong leadership ending on a situation of waste of talent, really slow-down the career and possibilities for that talented person. Even quitting the tech field for another (totally different) career. As leaders, we have to take care of people, be sure that they feel good, and save. To ensure that people can grow, as professionals (maybe as persons too?), so they reach (or goes oriented to) their maximum potential.