Leadership and Self Deception

During my career as a programmer, I’ve read a lot of technical books. Most have been decent and a few have been pretty good. However, there are a select few, like The Pragmatic Programmer and Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment that have been career changing. Only one book, Leadership and Self Deception, is what I would call life changing.

I first read Leadership and Self Deception during my MBA at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State. It was assigned reading as part of a class on Human Resources Management, a course I was already dreading. When I got the book, I took one look at the title "Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box" and immediately wrote it off as buzzword filled drivel.

Then I started reading it. The book is told as a simple narrative about Tom, a recently hired manager at the Zagrum corporation. You follow his meetings with his boss as he learns the secret to Zagrum’s success.

Leadership and Self Deception isn’t the buzzword filled book I had imagined. In fact, the “Getting out of the Box” in the title has nothing to do with typical management speak of thinking outside the box. Instead, it is a book about how we think about and relate to others.

The quick summary is that it’s a lesson on how the context and mindset of your interactions with others can make an enormous impact on the results you get. The book focuses on two concepts, self deception and self betrayal, and how the two concepts create a vicious cycle that robs you of authority and results.

The main lesson of the book is that the cause of most of our conflict with others is inside ourselves and is under our control. It explores how our interactions with others can shape the accuracy of our perceptions of others, and how these perceptions can cause us to lose productivity. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to recognize when you’re falling into these traps and how to overcome them.

It sounds simplistic, but after years of using their framework for thinking about my interactions with people, I can tell you that it has worked for me. Best of all, this isn’t a book that will just help you at work. I can definitively say that this book has helped me more in marriage than any other. It’s amazing how the simple advice contained can drastically impact the way you view yourself and others.