Self-Reinforcing Cycle of Leadership

Another example of the Escher Cycle has popped up in an unexpected place: personal leadership.

Suppose you have decided to change something in your business. You’ve decided to create a new product or service, open a new location, close a location, change the way that something in your business gets done, or whatever.

The first thing you do is create a plan. You use your personal insights, and the experience of any other leaders involved, to design how you want the organisation to be and how you’re going to achieve that.

Then your plan becomes a change project: you and the team work together to implement what you have planned and bring about the new way of doing things.

In the process you all have your own individual experiences of the change. You all experience it from different perspectives, depending on your roles, and you interpret those experiences in different ways.

Later you reflect on what worked, and what didn’t, and these experiences then get converted into new insights and rules of thumb. “Getting stakeholder buy-in is the most important part of the process,” “Getting stakeholder buy-in is a waste of time.” “A 15% margin for contingencies is really important” or “A 15% margin for contingencies is way too high.” And so-on.

When the time comes to design the next change project you use these insights and experiences to plan what is possible and how you will acheive it.

The repeating cycle looks like this:


The place this pattern has arisen is in the second book I am writing. Called The Churning, it is a book about leadership in times of change.

You will notice that this is the familiar Escher Cycle pattern, reappearing in a different guise.

The ‘mass market’ has now been replaced by ‘the organisation’. ‘Luxury or premium’ is now replaced by the individual leader: you. And ‘understanding the situation and designing a change plan’ is now called inner leadership, while implementing that plan and running the new business model are now outer leadership.


In fact the mapping is not 1:1. Inner leadership is not only about understanding and designing, it is about managing our inner emotions, morale, and inspiration, and those of the people around us. Outer leadership is not only about about managing for results, it is about planning and doing to achieve results. What we are seeing is the same fractal pattern appearing in a different situation or context.

Key takeaways?

  1. The pattern of The Escher Cycle is here, in yet another context
  2. Understanding this helps us identify the key steps more clearly, which enables us as leaders to be more aware and more focused in what we are doing, and hence more likely to achieve the results we want
  3. The Churning contains decision-making tools that enhance focus both for making sense of the situation (top right), and for planning what to do about it (bottom left)
  4. The Churning also contains tools that help both with managing the implementation of change projects (bottom right) and defining your individual insights about what the results mean to you (top left)

In a time of change these tools are becoming increasingly important.

You can find out more about The Churning here.

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