Book Review: Leadership and Self Deception

Published On April 17, 2009 | By mbalogh | Blog, Uncategorized

The Arbinger Institute. (2000). Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box . San Francisco: Berrett-Hoehler.

The Arbinger Institute did a great job of explaining their theory as will serve you well in both business and personal aspects of your life.  It was a very easy read and has a lot of potential to make you think about yourself and how you relate to both the world and your job.  This book was used as a text in my MBA studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silberman College of Buisness, a nationally top ranking entrepreneurship school.  As such I’ve engaged in many hours of discussion with both students and seasoned professionals about the merits and short-comings of this book.  I’ve also recommended this book to both friends and family.

First, the criticism.  This is a love it or hate it book.  I loved it, my wife hated it.  Some in our discussion group loved it, others hated it.  You might love it, you might hate it so sorry, I can’t offer you more on that.  Of those who hated here’s what they didn’t like:  1. It was not well researched.  It’s just a story with no data or anything hard to back it up.  2. The story is an obvious fabrication used to make a point, which it is, but I can get past that and listen to the point.  3. This book is written like a teacher speaks to third graders.  4.  It’s just not realistic.  It’s a recipe to be stepped on and taken advantage of.  For this to work the entire organization would have to buy in.  5. The end of the book is an obvious marketing ploy to bring business into the Arbinger Institute.

Now, the rebuts and the positives.  1 & 2. Forget the story.  The story is a medium for the lesson, and the lesson is a good one.  The research did not go into the story, the research went into the lesson.  3.  I agree that the book seems like it’s written by a third grade teacher, but I appreciate it.  At first I did not but then I realized that I was actually retaining the information.  It’s very useful if you are going to be putting the book down and picking it up again later.  If not, it’s just a quick read.  4.  The whole lesson is greater than the sum of its parts.  This is one of those books you’ll have to read four or five times, have a friend read it, discuss it a bit, and then have a dream about it before you get that a-ha moment.  You’ll fight the concepts at first, everyone seems to, but when it comes it’s worth it and all things fall into place.  5.  As for the blatant marketing, skip the last chapter (24), you’ll feel better about the book.

I like this book and plan on reading it at least once per year.  It’s a quick read that will help center you in life and in leadership.  It goes very well with the concept of Level 5 Leadership from Collins’s book Good to Great and Covey’s 7 Habits .

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