Business Book Review: Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute

Based on a fictional scenario between an executive vice president and his newest senior manager, Leadership and Self Deception discusses the concept of self-deception in the workplace and how it can be the biggest hindrance to anyone in a leadership role.


Self-Deception and the Box
According to the book, self-deception is, for all intents and purposes, a pre-conceived expectation or idea about oneself or others that places them in “the box” there by confining them and their possible performance. Essentially, if you believe one person is a problem they will become a problem whether they are or are not. Here, you will find that self-deception or being “in the Box” is the main reason, albeit unknowingly, why leaders fail.
Self-Deception – Being in the Box
Self-deception is likened to being in the box because it seems that you’re shut in a box with no other external stimulus coming in except your own closed perspective. For instance, you may think that you’re committed, totally devoted and engaged in a project – giving it your all, forsaking holidays and special personal occasions for work – and yet, based on other people’s observations, you are NOT. Since you don’t and can’t see it from your point of view, it makes you take a defensive stance and even come to believe that other people are against you.
Self-Deception – The Disease in the Organization
This inability to see that the problem lies within you carries its weight on the relationship you have with your peers and ultimately translates itself on the performance of your group. Whether you have a large or a small company your management skills may not be influencing your team members to perform at their best. Real success and results will only come by expressing a sincere desire to learn about them. People can detect even the slightest hint of hypocrisy and manipulation and leaders fail because they provoke the people to resist them by such behavior.
Ask yourself. Are you IN or OUT of the box?
Are you interested in knowing the people under you, or at least even match their names with faces for starters? If not, your lack of interest in something as basic as this keeps you in the box. You don’t regard them as people – only as objects within your organization.
Being OUT of the box means you’re placing your needs as well as the need of others on the same level. You are all equal. If it’s as simple as people treating others as people (including all the hard work and training that go with the job), most companies will have a shot at reaching the top. Motivation is the key to performance and productivity and the way to get people to produce is to make them feel they are respected and five them the attention they deserve.
Self-Betrayal is defined as taking part in an act contrary to what you feel you should participate in. Have you ever done something that you know you ethically should not have done? Have you have ever found yourself in a situation where a colleague needed some information for a project and you didn’t share this with him, even though you knew it was crucial to the project’s success?
According to the book, the only way to minimize the effect of your self-betrayal is by rationalizing your behavior. You may conjure up all sorts of excuses and reasons for your action but the truth is that will only put your goal further away.
By participating in the act of self-betrayal on a regular basis this becomes part of your reality and how others perceive you. This is especially dangerous as it affects the way you do business day to day. The book defines the practice of self-deception as placing oneself In the Box and therefore inviting others to retreat into their respective boxes as well. This becomes a vicious cycle – with your perverted view of the situation and the equally perverted response from the other party.
What won’t work while you remain In the Box.
” Trying to change others
” Doing my best to “cope” with others
” Leaving
” Communicating
” Implementing new skills or techniques
” Changing my behavior
How to get out of the box
The only way out is to stop resisting the will of others around you without compromising your core values. This process can be simplified by shedding yourself from self-justifying thoughts and feelings. The moment you start to feel that you want out of the box for someone, you are already out of the box because you see this someone as a person.
” Self-betrayal leads to self-deception and “the box”.
” When you’re in the box, you can’t focus on results.
” Your influence and success will depend on being out of the box.
” You get out of the box as you cease resisting other people.
” Don’t try to be perfect. Do try to do better.
” Don’t use the vocabulary – “The Box”, and so on – with people who don’t already know it. Do use the principles in your own life.
” Don’t look for others” boxes. Do look for your own.
” Don’t accuse others of being in the box. Do try to stay out of the box yourself.
” Don’t give up on yourself when you discover you’ve been in the box. Do keep trying.
” Don’t deny you’ve been in the box when you have been. Do apologize, then just keep marching forward, trying to be more helpful to others in the future.
” Don’t focus on what others are doing wrong. Do focus on what you can do right to help.
” Don’t worry whether others are helping you. Do worry whether you are helping others.
This book is for anyone in a leadership role. The book seeks to make readers better leaders through doing what is truly the right thing – and not making excuses, or deceiving oneself, when what is right is not done.
Focusing on the power of introspection and rejuvenation of the self in order to get out of the box and to stay out of it, the book offers advice on how to become a better person, which is necessary for one to lead and inspire others to follow. For more information how you can be out of the box, check out our Knowledge Center here.

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