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Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box Paperback – October 16, 2009
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“Extraordinary . . . Five Stars.”
“This is the most profound and practical business book I have ever read! Everyone I have recommended this book to has been challenged intellectually and also touched emotionally. It is a must-read that I will give to my kids to read before they begin their careers.”
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“Leadership and Self-Deception is a touchstone for authentic leadership. Arbinger’s innovative exploration of what lies beneath behavior uplifts, enlightens, and transforms. We’ve wholeheartedly adopted Leadership and Self-Deception as the foundational material for our administrator development program.”
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“Leadership and Self-Deception holds up a brutally honest mirror to behavior in which we all indulge to justify our shortcomings. The result is not self-remorse or punishment but a glimpse of a life to be lived with integrity and freed of the boundaries and constraints we inflict upon ourselves and others. I am always excited to watch Arbinger’s thinking help my clients to unlock painful family disputes and lead them to resolution.”
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—Robin Hamill, Chairman, Igility Group
Leadership and Self-Deception uses an entertaining story about an executive facing challenges at work and at home to expose the precise psychological processes that conceal our true motivations and intentions from us and trap us in a “box” of endless self-justification. Most importantly, the book shows us the way out. The book’s central insight—that the key to leadership lays not in what we do, but in who we are—has proved to have powerful resonances not only for organizational leadership, but in readers’ personal lives as well.
This new edition has been revised throughout to make the story more readable and compelling. And drawing on the extensive correspondence they’re received over the years the authors have added a section that outlines the many ways that readers have been using this book.
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This book was recommended to me by a fellow who was seriously self-deceptive. He and I have since recommended it to many others.
Unlike many unlikable books that dwell too much on story more than bullet points, I found myself engrossed in this story. Living it out with the author over several days, maybe weeks of reading, helped bring it to life.
This is a pretty gentle way to bring up and work through a very hard subject. Read it for yourself first. Change yourself before trying to change somebody else.
At the core of the book, he introduces us the concept of the Box - Being in the Box and Getting out of the Box. In this context, the Box represents the mental borders we draw around ourselves, to protect ourselves, to set us apart from rest of the world and justify our own actions. Bud explains in these sessions that we see others more or less as people only when we are out of the box - and we see them in a systematically distorted way, as mere objects in his words, when we are in the box. "We can be hard and invite productivity and commitment, or we can be hard and invite resistance and ill will. The choice is whether we do it while in the box or out of the box." It alludes to something deeper than behavior that determines our influence on others.
In acting contrary to one's own sense of what is appropriate, we learn, one betrays his own sense of how he should be toward another person. That is self-betrayal. The choice is whether to honor the sense or to betray it. According to Bud, "When I betray myself, I see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal and my view of reality becomes distorted, then I enter the box." Put another way, when I betray myself, I:
Inflate others' faults
Inflate own virtue
Inflate the value of things that justify my self-betrayal
The latter part of the book, which guides us into Getting out of the Box and exercising leadership in the liberated box-free world, we share in our hero's confusion in how the usual remedies fail here. This is where new leadership concepts are born and revealed. Getting out of the Box is only possible when we know well the problem with being in the box.
If you read only one business book, this would be among my top recommendations. If you can read only a few pages, read page 165-166. "Living the material" section is clean, short, void of all business jargon, and beautifully written to boot.
What I liked most was the use of stories about personal experiences to deliver the concepts in a relatable and practical way.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is seeking to develop themselves in a sustainable way, as well as anyone who is keen and committed to achieving transformation and excellence in leadership and management.