Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box Paperback – 3 May 2007
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"Profound...engaging...packed with insight. I couldn't recommend it more
-- Stephen R. Covey, Author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
About the Author
THE ARBINGER INSTITUTE is a management training and consulting firm and scholarly consortium that includes people trained in business, law, economics, philosophy, the family, education and psychology. Together, the members of Arbinger work to apply the sweeping implications of self-deception and its solution to all aspects of organisational, community and family life.
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Anyway, back to the text. If you can get over this then the book does provide a useful description of how intent precedes action, and doing things for the right reason is often the crucial difference in personal change. I also liked the implicit message of individual responsibility; too much of my own work place conflicts remain unresolved through self-justifications that are premised on the other person having the problem. Such issues are the primary thread throughout and it's hard to take issue with a book that promotes seeing colleagues as people rather than objects. I think David Bohm's book (On Dialogue) provides a better description but this book covers the main points.
In summary then, the writing style won't appeal to everyone but if your looking for a management book to pass the time this could be for you.
The best way to illustrate the premise behind the book, without revealing the secrets is by retelling the story of the 19th scientist, Dr Ignaz Semmelweis. As an obstetrician in the maternity ward at Vienna General Hospital he observed a high 1 in 10 mortality rate, while next door where the midwives delivered babies the mortality rate was only 1 in 50. Semmelweis researched and tested and experimented, only to discover to his horror that the doctors, who were also experimenting on cadavers, were carrying small 'particles' back to the maternity ward that sickened the women. He discovered "germs" -- and he discovered that the high mortality rate was not caused by something "out there" but by himself.
Leadership and Self-Deception sets out to answer the problem: "How can people simultaneously (1) create their own problems, (2) be unable to see that they are creating their own problems, and yet (3) resist any attempts to help them stop creating those problems?"
As I coach, I help people to recognize their role in their problems and their options to do something about it. I'm always amazed when a client resists working toward a solution because the existence of the problem provides some sort of perverse justification for my client's way of acting or a view of the world. This is self-deception. Profound. The book makes it clear that humans do this quite regularly. Indeed, I clearly saw myself in the book's story.
I won't give away the ending or the solution, only to say that the book takes the reader on a satisfying, yet challenging journey to examine inner motivations, self-betrayal, self-justification, blame of others, and what we can do to stop the cycle. We can't control other people's behavior, but we can choose our response, and this is where the power of personal responsibility lies.
With a balanced approach the book assists the reader to take responsibility for changing the world around them by changing themselves.
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