Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box

Reviewed on , book by The Arbinger Institute

You know that occasional, elusive thought of something you should do? Like taking out the trash? But instead of doing it, you replace it resentment. Why am I always the one taking out the garbage? In an instant, you conjure up a reality where your inaction is wholly justified: They need to pull their share of the responsibilities and take out the trash more often. In this new reality you’ve created, the resentment feeds on itself as you wait for them to do it. But they don’t. Because they can’t read your thoughts.

This book is about these moments of self-deception, big and small. That when we start deceiving ourselves, we influence those around us to do the same. It’s honestly a lot more work to reproach someone for not taking out the garbage than just doing it (or talking about it).

When there’s a disconnect between our sense of what’s right and what we do, we engage in what the book coins as ‘self-betrayal.’ If we don’t pay attention to these moments of self-betrayal, we easily drift into our own, self-serving stories. The idea is not new. You can summarize it as “assume good intentions”, “default to the most respectable interpretation,” or fundamental attribution error: What would have to be true for this person to act this way? However, it goes in much more depth with the profound effect it has on the environment around us to follow and not follow this common-sensical advice. That it’s much harder than we give it credit for, but that we can be better at catching ourselves.

It’s told as fiction, similar to The Goal, or 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s an easy read, with a robust and applicable takeaway. Definitely comes highly recommended.