Leadership and Self-Deception – The Arbinger Institute
Tom is newly hired at the Zagrum company, and after his first month of work, he is being called in for a special meeting with the VP, Bud. Unsure what to expect, Tom is amazed when Bud starts off the meeting by telling Tom that he has a problem. They spend the rest of the morning talking about how this problem manifests in such a way that everyone else is aware of it except the person with the problem. This problem is also peculiar because it is a problem that everyone has. After a day and a half of discussion that includes the VP, the president, and the previous owner of the company, Tom reflects about how his new awareness of the problem might influence his life. Everything from his work productivity, his work relationships, and his home life all improve as a result of his new-found awareness of this basic problem that everyone shares.
“Leadership and Self-Deception” has been used worldwide in corporate, team-building, and personal settings to improve relationships between people by building a common language about this specific problem. In short, that problem is living “in the box.” When someone (meaning all of us because we all have this problem) is living in the box, they see other people as objects instead of people, which inflates their view of themselves and the annoyances of the other person, creating a cycle in which we justify our less-than-perfect actions by blaming others for their weaknesses (not blaming others for your own weaknesses, but blaming others for their own weaknesses). This in turn puts other people “in the box,” giving them permission to blame others for their weaknesses and creating discontent all around. The solution to getting and staying out of the box is to let the humanity of other people pull you out of the box so that you connect to others as people instead of objects.
This book takes an interesting approach for a self-help novel. Instead of explaining the problem and giving examples, it puts it in a story, semi-fictionalizing the material so that it reads as a novel while drawing on real-life examples and situations. It is very easy to read, continually reiterating the ideas and concepts for maximum learning opportunities. It also feels incredibly patient for a book, so that you can argue with it while you are reading until you accept that you, too, are susceptible to the problem of living “in the box.” Understandable, relatable, and clearly explained, this book would be useful for anyone looking to improve their productivity, teamwork, or personal relationships. Highly recommended, especially for any kind of leadership setting or program.