Leadership and Self-Deception by Arbinger Institute
  • Title: Leadership and Self-Deception
  • Subtitle: Getting Out of the Box
  • Author(s): Arbinger Institute
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
  • Year: 2010-01-05
  • ISBN-10: 1576759784
  • ISBN-13: 9781576759783


Leadership and Self-Deception” by The Arbinger Institute is a groundbreaking book that delves into the often overlooked aspect of leadership - self-deception. This enlightening and thought-provoking read highlights how leaders and individuals unknowingly sabotage their own success by being trapped in a state of self-deception. Through a captivating narrative, the book introduces readers to Tom, a newly-hired executive, who discovers a unique approach to leadership that challenges his conventional beliefs.

The book presents the concept of the “box” - a metaphorical representation of how individuals distance themselves from reality and view others as objects, rather than human beings with needs and desires. The Arbinger Institute argues that being in this state of self-deception hampers not only personal relationships, but also organizational effectiveness. Using real-life examples and engaging storytelling, the book offers practical solutions to shift our perspectives, foster healthier relationships, and become more effective leaders. “Leadership and Self-Deception” is a compelling and eye-opening book that will undoubtedly revolutionize one’s approach to leadership and personal growth.

Book Review

“Leadership and Self-Deception” by The Arbinger Institute is a thought-provoking and compelling book that challenges conventional beliefs about leadership. The book explores the concept of self-deception and its profound impact on both personal and professional relationships. Through a captivating story, readers are introduced to Tom, a newly-hired executive, who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and transformative leadership.

One of the key insights that the book offers is the concept of the “box.” According to the Arbinger Institute, the box represents the state of self-deception that hinders our ability to perceive others as real human beings with needs and desires. When we are in the box, we see others as objects or obstacles rather than individuals deserving of understanding and empathy. The book provides several relatable examples, such as the interactions between Tom and his colleagues, that demonstrate how being in the box leads to conflict, tension, and an overall decrease in effectiveness.

One particularly impactful example is a situation where Tom is faced with a challenging team member, Bob. Instead of seeing Bob as a person with strengths and weaknesses, Tom perceives him as lazy and incompetent, attributing all the team’s failures to Bob’s inadequacies. This perception keeps Tom trapped in the box, fueling his resentment and leading to further breakdown in communication and collaboration. Through Tom’s journey, the book shows how self-deception not only affects one’s individual leadership style but infiltrates the entire organization, causing a cycle of blame and disengagement.

What makes “Leadership and Self-Deception” truly transformative is its ability to provide practical solutions. The Arbinger Institute advocates for shifting our perspective and getting out of the box, which ultimately leads to more authentic relationships and increased organizational effectiveness. The book offers profound insights on how to break the cycle of self-deception, such as recognizing our own part in creating and perpetuating the problem, choosing empathy over judgment, and taking responsibility for our actions. These strategies are illustrated through various scenarios in the book, allowing readers to see how they can be applied in real-life situations.

Overall, “Leadership and Self-Deception” is a captivating and enlightening book that challenges conventional notions of leadership. By exposing the destructive nature of self-deception and providing practical solutions, the Arbinger Institute empowers readers to become more effective leaders and create healthier relationships. Whether you are a seasoned leader or just starting your leadership journey, this book is a must-read for anyone seeking personal growth and improved leadership skills.

Word Count: 412

Key Ideas

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box” by The Arbinger Institute explores the impact of self-deception on leadership and personal effectiveness. Here are the key ideas from the book:

  1. The Box The central concept of the book is “the box,” which represents a state of self-deception. When individuals are in the box, they are blinded to their own faults and the needs of others. They see others as objects or obstacles rather than as people with their own feelings and needs.

  2. Self-Deception The book argues that self-deception is the root cause of many interpersonal and organizational conflicts. It occurs when individuals justify their own negative actions or attitudes toward others while blaming external factors or circumstances.

  3. Impact on Leadership The authors assert that leaders who are trapped in the box are ineffective and often create toxic work environments. They make decisions that serve their own interests rather than the best interests of the organization or team.

  4. The Choice The book emphasizes that individuals have a choice to either stay in the box (self-deceived) or get out of it (self-aware). Getting out of the box involves recognizing one’s own self-deceptive behaviors and choosing to see others as people with legitimate perspectives and needs.

  5. Influence and Change Leaders who get out of the box are better equipped to positively influence others. They can foster trust, collaboration, and open communication. The book provides examples of how leaders can lead by example in this regard.

  6. The Outward Mindset The authors introduce the concept of an “outward mindset,” which involves seeing and valuing others as individuals rather than as means to an end. This mindset shift is crucial for effective leadership and collaboration.

  7. Personal Accountability The book underscores the importance of personal accountability and taking responsibility for one’s actions and their impact on others. Leaders who get out of the box accept ownership of their behavior and its consequences.

  8. Resolving Conflict By getting out of the box, individuals can approach conflicts more constructively. The book offers guidance on how to address conflicts with an outward mindset, leading to better outcomes and stronger relationships.

  9. Application to Leadership Throughout the book, the authors provide real-world examples and practical advice on applying the principles of getting out of the box to leadership roles. They emphasize that leadership begins with self-awareness and personal change.

  10. Continuous Improvement The book encourages continuous self-reflection and improvement. It acknowledges that getting out of the box is an ongoing process and that individuals and leaders should strive to maintain an outward mindset in all aspects of their lives.

Leadership and Self-Deception” offers a powerful framework for understanding the impact of self-deception on leadership and relationships. It provides actionable strategies for leaders to break free from the constraints of the box and develop an outward mindset that fosters healthier interactions and more effective leadership. The book has been widely used in leadership development and organizational change efforts.

Target Audience

The book “Leadership and Self-Deception” by The Arbinger Institute is targeted at a diverse audience interested in personal and professional growth, leadership development, and improving interpersonal relationships. It is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Leaders and Executives This book is an essential read for leaders at all levels seeking to enhance their leadership skills. By understanding the concept of self-deception and its impact on relationships and effectiveness, leaders can transform their approach to leadership and create a more positive and productive work environment.

  • Management and Human Resources Professionals “Leadership and Self-Deception” offers valuable insights into the dynamics of human behavior and provides practical strategies for building strong and cohesive teams. HR professionals and managers can benefit from the book’s guidance on fostering a culture of empathy and collaboration within organizations.

  • Team Members and Employees Individuals who want to improve their communication, collaboration, and interpersonal skills will find this book beneficial. By recognizing their own potential for self-deception and learning how to step out of the box, team members can contribute to a more positive and productive work environment.

  • Psychologists and Coaches Mental health professionals, psychologists, and coaches can gain valuable insights from “Leadership and Self-Deception” to apply in their therapeutic or coaching practices. The book provides a framework for understanding and addressing interpersonal conflicts and offers effective techniques for personal growth and emotional intelligence.

In conclusion, “Leadership and Self-Deception” is recommended reading as it offers a transformative perspective on leadership and interpersonal relationships. It provides practical strategies for breaking free from self-deception and creating a healthier and more effective work environment. Whether you are a leader, team member, HR professional, or psychologist, this book has something valuable to offer in terms of personal and professional growth.