This is a self-help book with a unique approach. Rather than using anecdotes and lists and to-do items, Leadership and Self-Deception develops through narrative. It follows the progress of Tom Callum as he adjusts to his new job with the Zagrum Company. This company has an excellent reputation and a hugely successful track record, and Tom is delighted to be working for them. He just isn’t used to business-nothing-like-usual that he’s going to encounter along the way.
Called to the ‘Bud Meeting,’ Tom at first thinks he’s having a pleasant conversation with the VP. Bud quickly introduces Tom to the concept of self-deception and being ‘in the box.’ “Self-deception actually determines one’s experience in every aspect of life,” we’re told in the preface of this book, and that is just what Bud hopes to get across to Tom.
Why does a book about business practices worry about such a thing? Because self-deception “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.” In business, as in life, we’re only running in circles if we can’t see the exit because we’ve decided there’s only one road and that it goes ‘round and ‘round. What’s more, we blame others when we get nowhere. That’s being ‘in the box,’ and getting out of the box is essential to making progress and finding a better, more successful path.
As we follow Tom on his journey through the Bud Meeting, we inevitably identify with the poor man. When he attempts to justify his actions because other people did this or did that, Bud gently but firmly guides him toward an understanding of how his own behavior contributed to the impasse. There’s nothing tricky about it, once you accept your own participation in the problem, so readers need not be concerned that they’ll have to enroll in a pricey workshop to complement the book.
Developed by the Arbinger Group, Leadership and Self-Deception continues their mission of offering “people a common language for openly and clearly discussing… their differences.” There is no psychobabble and no esoteric, program-specific language in this book, just a clear and easily understood example of how to recognize and correct patterns that contribute to discord. A section at the end of the book clearly shows how these methods can be used to improve applicant screening, team building, conflict resolution, and personal growth. Readers will have no trouble finding ways in which to use this book and the methods it covers within their own arenas.
The format used in Leadership and Self-Deception could easily have descended into downright cheesy, but Tom’s story is surprisingly entertaining, and the concepts taught here are woven in seamlessly. The familiarity of Tom’s behavior and attempts at justifying it will be familiar to almost any reader, causing us to laugh at ourselves and grudgingly admit that we, too, are in the box.
It’s not quite so embarrassing, though, after Bud and others in the Zagrum Company admit – and demonstrate—that they keep falling back into that box, too. Awareness, it seems, comes and goes, and for just that reason, it behooves us to reread Tom’s story again and again.