Warning:”Leadership and Self Deception” May Require You to Get Real
In the summer of 2006, I took a director-level IT position. It was a return to management after six years of serving in software development and other technical roles. Up until then, I had depended heavily upon my technical skills and kept myself current through a lot of reading and research which had led me to several well respected certifications.
Since that approach had worked for me before, I committed myself to a reading and research project aimed at enhancing my leadership skills. My goal was to become as knowledgeable and proficient in the subject of leadership as I had become in my technical disciplines. In a discussion with my then boss about my self assigned project, he recommended the book “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’s subject. The book is written as a corporate fable. In it new employee Tom Callum at Zagrum Company participates in the firm’s unique orientation run by Bud Jefferson and other higher ups at the company. The primary topic of the orientation is to educate new employees (and the reader as well) on the problem of self deception. It claims everyone has the problem of self deception and refers to it as “being in the box.”
The second chapter entitled “The Problem” starts with Bud talking to Tom:
“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.”
The comment leaves the character Tom speechless thinking that maybe his job is on the line. Then Bud explains that everyone including himself deals with this problem. Interestingly enough, I started feeling a little concerned. “Maybe it wasn’t just Tom that had to worry about his position,” I thought. (Remember it was my boss that recommended the book.)
As I continued reading I understood more clearly what the author means by self-deception and its recommendations for “getting out of the box.” More importantly it made very clear how self-deception can undermine our leadership and credibility.
This book prompted me 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 put plans to improve in the areas where I had shortcomings.
I recommend this book for increasing your self-awareness, identifying blind spots that can hinder your career performance, and developing action plans for improving your leadership abilities.