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Self-Deception as a Leader

Self-deception is defined as “the action or practice of allowing oneself to believe that a false or unvalidated feeling, idea, or situation is true.” Consider this: a business partner repeatedly tells you that he wants to take a step back and decrease his ad buys in the business, but you convince yourself that he is very interested in the business and would like to increase ad buys. As a leader, how often do you self-deceive? While you may not do something specifically like this with the ad buys, you may be deceiving yourself in other ways.


How often do you receive feedback that doesn’t seem to line up with how you feel about yourself? If you’re consistently receiving that same feedback, and consistently denying it and failing to see that characteristic in yourself, you could be a self-deceiver. You may be seeing past your faults and choosing to self-justify. Self-deception in the workplace can cause a lot of destruction. It can cause you to spend more time thinking about yourself and your goals than the growth of the business. It can also cause you to treat others as objects.


When you are self-deceived as a leader, you may partake in a few detrimental behaviors—one of which is inflating your virtue. When you have an exaggerated sense of self, you begin to undervalue others and draw attention to their flaws. You blame others, and your coworkers become objects, not people. You may think others are challenging you, even if they have presented themselves as allies. It’s a tough mindset to be in, and can cause poor teamwork, lack of trust, and communication issues.


Self-deception may make you blind to your own true motivations. After all, the concept of deception is to deceive, or fool someone—even if it’s yourself. In doing so, you may unintentionally sabotage yourself. In lying to yourself, you are blind to the truth and unable to implement effective workplace solutions.


There are different levels of self-deception, whether you deceive yourself casually or totally disregard reality. Remedying the problem involves a journey of self-awareness. Learn more about this topic by investing in a copy of Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute. As a note of interest, this book is voted #1 by our CEO Solutions Peer Group members, all of whom are CEOs.

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