LEADER’S FIELD GUIDE
When I was a little girl, I had a pet coccinella septempunctata, or ladybug, as they are more commonly known. Using the vast knowledge of a seven-year-old, I made sure her glass house offered plenty of fresh water and green leaves. (Yes, you may know most ladybugs are carnivores…more on that later). I would tap on her mayonnaise jar until she moved. I imagined she was glad to see me, but now wager she was simply trying to escape the incessant vibrations. I truly enjoyed hosting my polka dotted beetle, until she “secreted” on me! ACK!
Turns out, ladybugs play dead, and like turtles, draw their legs up under their shells. As part of this protective process, they also emit a foul-smelling substance meant to ward off predators, like birds, spiders, and apparently little girls. I ran as fast as I could to wash my hands, screaming the whole way. I never saw that ladybug again and that was fine with me! Now, as a leader, I can look back, laugh, and take a few pointers:
- Control Pests: To my earlier point about ladybugs being carnivores, “scientists estimate that [a ladybug consumes] 5,000 aphids over its lifetime.” Aphids feed on the sap of vegetation. Farmers responded in the 1880s by importing ladybugs from Australia, ultimately increasing orange crop yields by three-fold. In business, pests are little annoyances drawing attention from important activities. Leaders must resolve tiny recurring problems so teams can focus on productivity and growth.
- Stay Hungry: In 1999, NASA studied the effects of zero gravity on the defense mechanism of aphids, the most favored of all ladybug cuisine. According to Pilot Jeffrey S. Ashby, all four beetles (John, Paul, Ringo, and George) survived, implying gravity is more important to the aphid than it is to the ladybug. So, even when the rules change or we don’t feel quite grounded, we must stay hungry. We must refuse to give up!
- Be Balanced: Ladybugs boast hard outer shells protecting a set of delicate wings. These translucent wings unfold before flight and beat 80 times a second. As leaders, we also need a tough exterior, setting stretch goals and robust expectations while caring generously for the heart and soul of a team whose sincere effort might fall short. It’s possible to balance a robust disposition with a softer temperament.
I don’t think my pet ladybug and I would have gotten along anyway, especially with aphids on the menu. And I think we’d all agree, though sometimes very tempting, playing dead is a NOT a good leadership strategy. We would have agreed on a few things, though: minimize irritants, stay hungry, and balance tough with tender.
— Join a Synergy Group where we will discuss what the
Bible says about Ladybugs. —
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She founded Synergy Groups, virtual masterminds connecting all Christians, everywhere, for the purpose of Community, Accountability, Transformation, and Leadership. She also partners with high-performers and heirs-apparent especially in the STEM industries. Michelle’s formal background in technology, franchise, and project management gives her an edge on implementing best practices and scaling towards sustainable success. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.