mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Manager Reads - Leadership and Self-Deception

The first manager reads book of 2019 is like Citizens United for books: organizations can be authors too! Written by the Arbinger Institute our next book is Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box.

Who recommended the book? At Twitch we have a Learning from Leaders series that gives everyone more opportunities to ask questions and get answers on topics related to growth, career, and leadership. One of our VPs, Ethan Evans, lead a session called “Considering Becoming a Manager?” During this session I asked him for book recommendations on management and he recommended Leadership and Self-Deception among a few others.

Judge the book by its cover, font, page quality? The cover takes on the form of a white piece of paper that is torn to leave a cracking self-deception below it on a striking blue background. The rest of the cover is simple and straightforward featuring no fancy claims to greatness but it does proudly claim having sold over 2 million copies. Trying to ground my sense of what’s an impressive number in book sales I stumbled upon a 2015 NPR article where a literary agent says selling 25,000 copies of a book is sensational. Not bad (times 80), Arbinger Institute!

Inside are off-white pages that provide a refreshing breeze of air if you flip through all of them in front of your face. The classic serif font, point size, kerning, leading, and page margins are all quite agreeable and provide a good reading experience for the eyes.

Thoughts on the book and the big take-aways? Leadership and Self-Deception teaches its lesson through a fictional narrative that follows Tom, a new employee at Zagrum who is about to undergo the special training for new employees. During this special training Tom learns about self-betrayal, self-deception, being in the box, and ultimately how to get out of the box.

We self-betray ourselves when we ignore the sense that we should be doing something to help someone else. The moment we do this we start to inflate our own virtue and inflate the faults of others. Our view of reality becomes distorted as we become self-deceived and get in the box. Inside the box we’re not focused on results or getting out of the box but rather looking for things to justify being in the box. To get out of the box you must free yourself from the self-justifying thoughts and feelings that are keeping you in the box and cease resisting others.

While the idea of self-deception covered is powerful and great to have awareness of, I found the narrative structure a bit contrived and cheesy.

Favorite quote from the book? “The most effective leaders lead in this single way: by holding themselves more accountable than all.”

Elevator pitch for suggesting (or not suggesting) the book? Even the most virtuous among us has once failed to rise to action when we saw someone or a situation in need of our help. To various degrees we’re all engaging in self-betrayal and self-deception and being aware of this is key to getting out of it. While the narrative format might not please everyone, there’s a lot to love and learn about this book.

Notes in Evernote? If you want to skip to the nuggets of wisdom from Tom’s special orientation at Zagrum feel free to review my notes on 🐘.

Most of the world’s wisdom is written down in its best books. Manager Reads is a series covering books on management and leadership, focusing on books that can improve your own leadership with the wisdom of others. Enjoyed this post and want to see more? Check out more at Manager Reads.