M.C. Escher: Drawing Out the Paradox of a Leader

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to cope with an ever- changing workplace. Reading time: 3:15.

         If leadership is an art, then artist M.C. Escher must be The Leader’s patron saint.

M.C. Escher’s Relativity is Staircase Crazed

          The famed artist, who expressed 3-D images in a 2-D format in lithographs with a flair for physics-defying perspective,  seemed to capture the chaos and paradox of change agentry that envelops every leader.

        After all a leader’s world often seems upside down and turned around — a topsy turvy world where the floors seem like ceilings; the tables tops become streets and people walking on staircases seem to be going both up and down.

      M.C. Escher’s art did all that and more.

     Escher’s paintings reflect the conflicting paradoxical world of a leader who is regularly gored on the horns of a dilemma.

     Escher’s paintings also reflect the conflicting paradoxical world a leader regularly challenged to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. That paradox is the test of a first-rate mind as author F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed.

     No wonder poet Rudyard Kipling suggested that leaders be able to meet with both triumph and disaster and “treat those two imposters just the same or walk with kings nor lose the common touch.”

    Twisting and turning against the winds of change, leaders come to see the paradoxical –the conflicting and complex —  as normal business conditions.

    In fact, Paradox Thinking is so common that you’d think your brain would come wired with sideswipe safety switch like the switch that every traffic light is built with that prevents the green light from flashing in both directions at the same time, both east and west and north and south. Traffic engineers call that switch a “Conflict Monitor Malfunction Unit.” I call it a Sideswipe Prevention Switch.

               Leaders have to provide their own Sideswipe Prevention Switch to cope with the paradoxes in their daily leadership duties and negotiate the proverbial stairs in an M.C. Escher painting that seems to be going up and down at the same time.

M.C. Escher’s Ascending and Descending

              Here’s my Sideswipe Safety Switch: it’s an Ode to the Paradox of Leadership that helps me at least acknowledge the paradox of leadership on a regular basis and hopefully help me better cope.

             I re-read this Ode to the Paradox of Leadership whenever I’m feeling exhausted after seemingly getting lost in a M.C. Escher painting and unable to find my way out. Then becoming even more disoriented trying to go up the downstairs case or down the upstairs case. Whatever.

Ode to The Paradox of Leadership

Leaders beat the drums of BOTH the ordinary and the conundrums of the extraordinary.

Leaders cope with BOTH the trying and the gratifying.

Leaders deal with BOTH the comedic and the tragic

Leaders deal with BOTH the malleable and durable.

Leader deal with BOTH the inveterate and the degenerate.

Leaders rely on Both the censor and the sensor.

Leaders grasp BOTH the grotesque and the burlesque.

Leaders face BOTH the feckless and the fearless.

Leaders concentrate on BOTH the common will and the common weal.

Leaders deal with BOTH the deeply personal and profoundly alien.

     So the next time you find yourself caught in a tug of war that is leadership, tugging at the yin and yang, the yin of theory, art and intuition and the yang of facts, science and logic, flick on your Sidewipe Prevention Switch and hang on for the ride of your life as a leader. Even if you find yourself going DOWN the upstairs. Or UP the downstairs.

 Today’s ImproveMINT

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