I once read that in order to know if you are a good leader, just turn around and see who is following you. It can be that simple. Also consider why they are following you. If people are following through force or threat of force, that is not leadership—its coercion.
As leaders we typically are our own biggest problem. Rarely does a confident leader take an introspective moment to understand if they are part of a problem. It is easy to be blinded against us as leaders being the source. This is called self-deception: the inability to see that one has a problem.
“Self-deception is like this. It blinds us to the true causes of problems, and once we’re blind, all the “solutions” we can think of will actually make matters worse. Whether at work or at home, self-deception obscures the truth about ourselves, corrupts our view of others and our circumstances, and inhibits our ability to make wise and helpful decisions.”
The Arbinger Institute is a globally recognized consulting company specializing in helping companies and individuals focus on changing your mindset in order to change behaviors and produce better results. In their international bestseller Leadership and Self-Deception they use a fictional story to show how self-deception determines our life’s experiences.
This book has been successful at helping companies in five main areas: the hiring process, leadership and team building, conflict resolution, accountability, and personal growth and development. It tells a story about self-deception, that when we are self-deceived we are “in the box.”
When we are in the box we view and treat other people as objects to meet our goals; versus those that are “out of the box” who view themselves and others as people.
When we act solely based on objectives like our goals, contrary to what we feel, we betray ourselves and create the foundation of self-deception. Our self-betrayal leads to us to see others in a way that justifies our behavior. Our perception of reality becomes distorted and we enter “the box.” This leads to inflating others faults, our own virtue, the value of things that justify our self-betrayal, and blame.
Being “in the box” we can’t truly focus on results because we are focused on our own self-justifying ways and images, carrying that baggage with us to new situations. If people act in a challenging way to our self-justifying images then we see them as threats. If they reinforce our self-deception, then we see them as allies.
The underlying issue is not seeing them as people, but merely objects to justify our own behaviors. This leads to lack of accountability, trust, communication, conflict and poor teamwork.
We are “out of the box” towards others when we honor them as people and see them with needs, hopes and worries. It actually creates a liberating feeling when we are no longer trying to justify ourselves and our behaviors. A successful leader is dependent on being “out of the box” to create an environment of trust, openness and teamwork—one where employees work for the collective good and not just individual success.
I would highly recommend this book to help understand the concept of self-deception and how it is rampant in so many organizations. By recognizing the symptoms of being “in the box,” you will be able to work towards being “out of the box” towards others. When you live “out of the box,” all areas of your life will be improved, especially your attitude and feelings about others and yourself.
Join us again next month as CWA Partner Toni Lee picks up another selection from the best-selling author Patrick Lencioni. In his new book, The Ideal Team Player, Lencioni turns his focus to the individual member of a team, what makes some people better team players than others, and how to create a framework for identifying, hiring, and developing ideal team players.
The CWA Advisors’ Shelf is a series of book reviews by some of our avid readers and advisors. We encourage you to revisit some of the prior reviews:
The Square and the Tower, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently, Thinking Fast and Slow, The Power of Habit.