Getting Out of the Box

‘Leadership and Self Deception’ (aka Getting out of the Box) is, funnily enough, a book about leadership and self deception!

We are asked to look at problems and see how we are part of them.

I was quite happy to run with that, but it took things further. Leadership courses might teach us what to say and what to do to handle situations, but if we still fundamentally see the other person as the problem and pat ourselves on the back for handling them well, we are deceiving ourselves. We are ‘in the box’, looking out.

This is the real problem!

How do we get in the box?

Through “Self betrayal. An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another…” (P. 67)

When we choose not to act a certain way, we begin to justify that choice. “When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self betrayal.” (P.73)

“When I see the world in a self-justifying way, my view of reality becomes distorted.” (P. 77)

In other words, we exaggerate our own virtues and the other person’s faults.

“So – when I betray myself, I enter the box – I become self deceived.”

We begin blaming the other person. Our feelings change and we see them as ‘unworthy’ or ‘undeserving’ of help.

“Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of us, and we carry them with us.” (P. 85) We are automatically ‘in the box’. We don’t need a triggering event because we are carrying a self-justifying image with us everywhere we go.

“We enter new situations, already in the box. We don’t see people straightforwardly as people. Rather, we see them in terms of the self-justifying images we’ve created. If people act in ways that challenge the claim made by a self-justifying image, we see them as threats. If they reinforce the claim made by a self justifying image, we see them as allies. If they fail to matter to a self-justifying image, we see them as unimportant. Whichever way we see them, they’re just objects to us. We’re already in the box.” (P. 88)

For instance, if we carry the ‘responsible parent/ partner/ dog owner’ box with us, we will blame the child or partner or dog for wanting attention, when we are endlessly busy providing the comforts of home.

Feeling the need to justify what we do and blame them for wanting attention, is a sign we are ‘in the box’. While we feel that way, we are unlikely to give them the attention they want, because ‘they don’t appreciate what we do and don’t deserve it’.

Most self-justifying images reflect what would actually be great. It would be great to be a loving partner, responsible dog owner, hard working employee, reflective employer etc. However, as soon as we find ourselves mentally (or verbally) having to justify our behaviour in order to maintain that image, we are ‘in the box’ and deceiving ourselves. The things we want to be are the very things we are not being, if we have to convince ourselves, especially at someone else’s expense.

When we are out of the box, we genuinely, warmly want to help people/ creatures and act to help them in good faith. This doesn’t mean we do everything for them, but neither do we feel the need to blame them, inflate their faults or justify our behaviour to maintain an image.

Further reading:

Leadership and Self Deception (Amazon books)

Leadership and Self Deception – Summary