Are You a Butterfly or a Moth?

Butterfly or a moth
Are you a butterfly or a moth?


Right away when you read that question, you want to answer “butterfly.” How do I know? Because that’s the answer I would give, too. Butterflies are beautiful, elegant creatures while moths are drab and pretty darn annoying. But it may surprise you to find out you’re more of a moth than you thought.


A few weeks ago I was hiking back down the trail after enjoying the summit at Pine Mountain when I caught up to a family of three. The little girl, probably around 6 years old, was frozen in the middle of the path, afraid to take another step. As I approached, I could hear her mother gently remind her, “It’s a butterfly. It won’t hurt you. Look how it landed. Do you remember how to tell the difference between a butterfly or a moth?”


As I passed them, a gentle smile on my face, I answered the mom’s question in my head. Butterflies land with their wings together and moths land with their wings spread out. Don’t ask how I remembered that – I honestly have no idea. I realized as I continued the descent back to the trailhead that some of the characteristics of moths and butterflies make me think of some characteristics that leaders display. Both moths and butterflies are part of the Lepidoptera family, just as leaders who display either set of these characteristics are still…leaders.



What is your resting pose?

Butterflies rest with their wings folded vertically over their backs while moths hold their wings out to cover their abdomen. Some leaders opt for a posture of openness and vulnerability, while others choose to act in fear, covering themselves with self-preservation.


Where do you thrive?

Moths operate in the dark, though they are drawn to light. Butterflies are active in the daytime. There are leaders who thrive in the darkness of secrecy. They don’t seek accountability for their decisions, they surround themselves with secrecy, and yet they pop into the limelight when the occasion arises. On the contrary, there are leaders who thrive by leading with integrity and transparency, whose character is so beautiful on its own that there is no need to seek the limelight.


How do you learn?

Butterflies have long, thin antennae with clubs at the end while moths have shorter, feathery antennae with no clubs. Both moths and butterflies know the importance of knowing their environment. The difference is that moths wait for what comes to them while butterflies use “dipping” to actively learn about their environment. As a leader, do you wait for information to come to you, trusting that what you get is all there is to know? Or do you actively seek to grow, improve, and discover the good and bad aspects of your environment and leadership?


Before my research, I had no idea that there are 9 moth varieties for every 1 butterfly variety. In fact, some moths may fool you into thinking they are butterflies. ( Don’t fool yourself.


What kind of leader are you? Are you a butterfly or a moth?

2 thoughts on “Are You a Butterfly or a Moth?”

  1. Ashley says:

    I love this analogy – and also did not know these things about moths and butterflies! I also love the learning moment that mom was taking to teach her daughter – so often those moments can be passed by!

    1. That one little comment from the mom was what started this whole train of thought. I agree – it’s so easy to miss those moments!

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