Many years ago when I was the Director of HR for a global company, I inherited a Human Resource Manager who was, to put it mildly, the oddest person I had ever met. I’m not sure I can even describe her. She would say strange things, write even stranger emails and literally made every person she ever encountered scratch their heads as they walked away.
As her leader, my natural reaction every single day was to avoid her at all costs. I just didn’t want to have to deal with her. The truth was that for all of her personality quirks, she did get the job done, even if she drove everyone a bit crazy doing it.
A few months later she was transferred to another supervisor and left the company not long after that. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that they wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore. I thought she would be nothing but a distant memory.
But the truth is I think about her often.
Because as a leader I think I missed an opportunity to discover the butterfly.
She was one odd duck, annoying at every turn, but she had really good qualities. It was difficult to work with her, difficult to talk with her; but when you put the effort in, you realized she was actually very smart and had a unique perspective that made you think about things differently. She was by all accounts a caterpillar that no one thinks twice about.
Until she becomes a butterfly.
It’s a leadership failure of mine I regret to this day. Rather than lead and discover the butterfly, I avoided. I saw her as a caterpillar, offering nothing more than what I hoped would be a short existence in my life. I missed the fact that she could be a butterfly and that I, as her leader, held some responsibility for helping her get there.
Leading human beings with personalities is hard. It can be especially difficult when their personality isn’t one we would ever choose to be around if we weren’t required to. But if we are going to truly be leaders and serve the individuals we lead, that means all of them.
Even the ones we don’t like so much.
Now, anytime I come across someone difficult, I think about her. I think about how I let her down by not being a leader who saw past her quirks. None of the leaders in our company saw past them, and that actually makes me feel worse.
I could have been the one to discover the butterfly.
Originally posted on Acacia HR Solutions blog.