Leading and Self-Deception

Living in alignment with your values, strengths and purpose by doing the work is rewarding in and of itself. In my experience, I know that working to ‘stay out of the box’ is not always easy work. At times, I find myself resisting the work. And I know that when I pause to ‘do the work’ it results in being right with relationships – the reward and the fulfillment.


When you are telling a colleague or subordinate that they have a problem, the depth of what self-deception can look like becomes very clear.

Helping others see what they are unable or unwilling to recognize is a widespread leadership challenge. And it’s one of the many reasons my clients engage me as a leadership coach. Their heart’s desire is to be helpful and they find themselves not knowing how to effectively help another. The answer lies in this paradox — we attempt to be helpful by pointing out the blind spots in others, yet we are unable to see or acknowledge them in ourselves.

Even the most astute leaders, no matter how much leadership training or executive coaching they have had, have self-deceiving tendencies. Self-deception is human. Yet, there is limited exposure to this phenomena and you’ll need to seek out the information, training or coaching. We practice self-deception daily. When stress is elevated it shows up in force and it is contagious because judgment invites judgment and spreads throughout the group.

Leaders often pride themselves on how well they listen and show interest in their subordinates’ family members. Some have received training in how to express “authentic” empathy. But, people have keen internal radar systems. They can detect when efforts to express “authentic” empathy are genuine or not. When a leader is trying to clumsily demonstrate a learned management skill such as this, an employee can sense the inauthenticity. It’s exceptionally difficult to feign genuine interest and these efforts most often backfire, making the situation worse.

No matter what we do on the outside, people primarily respond to how we feel about them on the inside. It takes honesty and authenticity to generate long-term engaged performance gains.

Always remember — no matter how nice you are when “suggesting” an improvement, your employee’s internal radar senses your intent. You can be firm and, with an open heart, set clear, ‘out-of-the-box’ expectations, inviting engagement and resulting in greater productivity.

This isn’t easy. Giving feedback that works to motivate improved performance never is. Quite frankly, unless you have done your own personal work, you will struggle. If you have not uncovered your own layers of self-deception, through the process of self-development and leadership coaching, it will be a challenge to genuinely offer up your own stories and examples to help others improve.

If you have not experienced the benefits of coaching and are curious about how it can serve you, please contact me. I have a lot of training and experience working with self-deception, uncovering blind spots and assisting clients in finding their heart of peace outside the box. Contact me.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *