99% of being a leader has everything to do with interpersonal relationships and social interactions.
And not every interaction is with someone you like.
This summer I read the book Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute. It is easy to read and written in the form of a fable.
The gist of the book is that conflict between people is based on our self-deception that views others as either a help or hindrance and we begin to feel we are more important than other people.
Whether it is a family member or that ‘idiot’ at work this perception becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We inflate our self-worth while deflating the other person until we rationalize our behaviour by blaming the other person.
How does the book suggest how we can get past this self-deception?
- Have empathy. Treat people like people. When you are in the box and are being self-deceptive, you treat others as objects, not as human beings.
This doesn’t mean you don’t fire someone who isn’t right for a job; firing can be done by seeing the other person as an object or as a person among people.
- Don’t let your expectations affect your view of someone’s actions. One way of being in the box is having a view of a person or the world and then fitting all the evidence to reinforce your view.
If you expect someone to be a particular way, you view their actions in that way. “we subconsciously begin to ignore or dismiss anything that threatens our worldviews, since we surround ourselves with people and information that confirm what we already think.”
- When you betray your sense of what you should do for another, you begin to see the world in a way that justifies your betrayal. And that leads to blaming others and viewing yourself as a victim.
For example, if you are sure that SOB is a jerk, everything that person does will begin to reinforce that perception: Even if he is doing the right thing.
- Self-betrayal leads to self-deception. When you engage in self-deception, you are in the box. You exaggerate your virtues, inflate the faults of others, and emphasize factors that support your self-deception.
When you betray your core values, you explain the betrayal deceiving yourself.
- Being in the box leads others to be in the box. By justifying your view of the world and acting and communicating accordingly, others will develop a view of you that causes them to be in the box.
The leadership self-betrayal results when we don’t do what is right and justify that action or inaction to protect our egos. This leads to us shifting the blame onto others. We start to view others as either starting-blocks or stumbling blocks – they help or hinder us.
This book’s message is that the problem often lies within ourselves and it is only through self-awareness can we move forward.
I wish I would have read this book in my twenties when I was starting out on my leadership journey … except I suspect I had so deceived myself and was so self-absorbed it would have been lost on me.
As is most good life advice.