Leadership and Self Deception: Perfect for Identifying Imperfections
In the summer of 2006, I took a director-level IT position. I was returning to management after six years in software development and other technical roles. For a while, I there I depended on my technical skills. I kept myself current through a lot of reading and research which had led me to several well respected certifications.
Since that approach had worked before, I figured why not do the same for my new role. So I committed myself to a research project aimed at becoming the best leader. I could become proficient a leader as I had become in my technical disciplines.
In a discussion with my then boss about this, he recommended “Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box” published by The Arbinger Institute. It contains an interesting quote before the table of contents.
“It is in the darkness of their eyes that men get lost,” by Black Elk.
That quote accurately describes the book. It’s a corporate fable where newbee employee Tom Callum participates in the Zagrum Company’s orientation program. It’s run by Bud Jefferson and other higher ups at the company which make it their top priority. The main goal is to educate new employees (and the reader as well) on the problem of self deception. It claims everyone has it and everyone’s got to deal with it.
The characters call self deception “being in the box.” In the chapter 2 – “The Problem” Bud starts by saying:
“You have a problem,” Bud continued. “The people at work know it; you spouse knows it; your mother-in-law knows it. I bet even your neighbors know it.”
His words leave Tom speechless. He thinks his job is on the line. (For a second, I was too. “Wasn’t it my boss that had recommended the book??). But Bud makes it clear everyone including he has to deal with this problem and goes one with the message. As I continued reading I understood more clearly what the author means by his recommendations for “getting out of the box.” More importantly he explains clearly how self-deception can completely undermine our credibility as a leader.
The book really stirred me up. I became really self conscious about how others might perceive me and it prompted me to sign up to take a 360° leadership assessment. In that assessment my boss, peers, and subordinates provided feedback on my leadership and managerial skills. The feedback was collected and organized so I could understand the feedback and develop plans for improving areas where I had shortcomings.
I can’t recommend this book enough for:
- increasing your self-awareness,
- identifying blind spots that can hinder your career performance and
- developing action plans for improving your leadership abilities.
Please share with me any experiences you’ve had with leadership, self deceptions and any efforts you’ve made to “get out of the box.”