Why Do We, As Leaders, Deceive Ourselves?

As I sit back and reflect on my personal path to becoming more authentic and humble, I see how Self-Deception, a significant concept, has impacted my journey.  

With Arbinger Institute I studied Leadership and Self-Deception. Taking that very deep dive into the nuances of Self-Deception changed how I both saw and experienced relationships. Being ‘right’ with relationships is a life long journey. Because we are human we fail often. We need to stay committed and vigilant to our own self-awareness of Self-Deception.  I invite you to consider your own areas of Self-Deception.


The secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one’s own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.
– George Orwell

As much as we’d like to believe that we’re rational human beings, we can all too easily mislead ourselves. Self-Deception is a process that encourages us to justify our false and invalid beliefs or to rationalize our blind spots.

Individuals, organizations and communities all experience Self-Deception — the root of most problems, according to the Arbinger Institute, a Utah-based consulting firm. It is human nature to have blind spots so we blame others, externalize causes and deny our role in organizational struggles. This tendency is so pervasive that few of us escape its reach and Self-Deception intrudes into every aspect of our lives. Nowhere is it more destructive than at the top of the leadership food chain.

As someone responsible for influencing others, consider this: Self-Deception blinds you to the true source of most conflicts. You also become blind to options and choices you have within yourself. Once you are caught in its trap, all of the “solutions” you propose most likely make matters worse. You’ll find that your Self-Deception:

  • Obscures the truth about yourself
  • Distorts your view of others and your circumstances
  • Damages your credibility and the trust others have in you
  • Impedes your ability to influence others
  • Prevents wise decision-making

The extent of your Self-Deception determines how much your happiness and leadership influence will be undermined. Without some form of insight or intervention, your performance will suffer and your subordinates will become disengaged.

This is a common problem with the clients I work with. We are all blind to what we cannot see.  It is like goldfish swimming in a bowl, oblivious to the fact they are in water, they do not see what others can plainly see.

Fortunately, we can learn to recognize this leadership trap and can take proactive steps in changing the outcome. It is not as simple as guarding yourself against Self-Deception, it takes mindful awareness and work to change the way we are in relationship with one another.  Ongoing vigilance and awareness is required to preserve being ‘right’ in relationships, note Arbinger’s experts in Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box.

Awareness will:

  • Sharpen your vision
  • Reduce feelings of conflict
  • Enliven the desire for teamwork
  • Redouble accountability
  • Enhance your ability to achieve results
  • Boost job satisfaction and overall happiness

You can then leverage your leadership strengths, view yourself and others more positively without judgment, and resolve resistant personal and professional relationship problems.

It’s important to examine Self-Deception at all levels to improve teamwork, reduce conflict, boost engagement, and achieve remarkable results. But the self-discovery steps toward enlightenment begin with you and are difficult without a trusted mentor or executive coach to guide you. I am Arbinger-trained to work with you on Self-Deception, give me a call.


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