Are you creating your own problems? A review of Leadership and Self Deception


Are you creating your own problems and then blaming others for them? Leadership and Self-Deception is a solid, and much-needed look at leadership and the need to reflect on our own behaviours without pointing the fingers at others first. In other words, change starts with looking in the mirror!! Read it. Apply it. And see your own leadership and personal satisfaction go up.

This book begins with stories of a manager, a CEO, a father, and a 19th century scientist who while searching diligently for their problems “out there” quickly find that the problem was within themselves.

The best way to illustrate the premise behind the book, without revealing its secrets is by retelling the story of the 19th scientist, Dr Ignaz Semmelweis. As an obstetrician in the maternity ward at Vienna General Hospital he observed a high 1 in 10 mortality rate, while next door where the midwives delivered babies the mortality rate was only 1 in 50. Semmelweis researched and tested and experimented, only to discover to his horror that the doctors, who were also experimenting on cadavers, were carrying small ‘particles’ back to the maternity ward that sickened the women. He discovered “germs” — and he discovered that the high mortality rate was not caused by something “out there” but by himself.

If you’re familiar with systems thinking you’ll understand the science behind it. But the beauty of the book is that it’s written as a business fable that follows one character through his self-discovery and correction. Along the way, you’ll be drawn in as you find yourself relating to the character’s challenges wanting to know what happens next in order to help yourself.

Leadership and Self-Deception sets out to answer this three-part question. “How can people simultaneously:
1. create their own problems,
2. be unable to see that they are creating their own problems, and yet
3. resist any attempts to help them stop creating those problems?”

As a coach, I help people to recognize their role in their problems and then find options to do something about it. I’m always amazed when a client resists working toward a solution because the existence of the problem provides some sort of justification for his or her way of acting or their view of the world. This is self-deception. Profound. The book makes it case that everyone does this quite regularly. After reading the book, I have had time to reflect on many situations and relationships that were based on my own self deception and not on the “reality” that I had developed in my head to justify my view of the person involved. I labelled them as “lazy” or “unmotivated”, which upon reflection, was simply not the case. It was easier to label them than to try to understand them as a person and to question why they seemed unmotivated. Perhaps it was me who lacked the ability to inspire them to want to work with me.

I won’t give away the ending or the solution, only to say that the book takes the reader on a satisfying, yet challenging journey to examine inner motivations, self-betrayal, self-justification, blame of others, and what we can do to stop the cycle. We can’t control other people’s behaviour, but we can choose our response, and this is where the power of personal responsibility lies.
With a balanced approach the book assists the reader to take responsibility for changing the world around them by changing themselves.

Have you read Leadership & Self Deception? Did you have any self-revelations?