What I'm Reading: 002 -- Leadership and Self-Deception

What I’m Reading
002: Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute
By Matt Schuler

Our answer to “What’s wrong with the world?” will go a long way toward what, if anything, we think we can do about it. In the span of a couple of days, I’d gotten two recommendations and attended a presentation on The Arbinger Institute’s Leadership and Self-Deception, a book which helps shine light on that question.

Nearly every story I hear people share, including my own, are told in a way that puts the speaker in the best possible light. There’s a natural drift toward self-flattery when you’re the subject of your own story. Even when we’re the villain, in the wrong, or at fault in the story, we’re predisposed to tell it in a way that people will empathize with our motivations.

“Tom” tells the story of Leadership and Self-Deception. It’s a fascinating read on the topic of what it means to be a leader told in a first-person narrative perspective. It’s a story. In the very beginning, Tom’s told “You have a problem — a problem you’re going to have to solve if you’re going to make it.” You’re reading along as Tom explains his training at a new job, his life, his relationships, his complete breakdown and the eventual understanding of his real problem.

You see, Tom was always looking at the world as if other people were the problem. It was never him. It was always his wife, or his children, or his boss, or his coworkers, or his subordinates. As I’m reading along I catch myself nodding along with Tom before realizing that’s part of the problem. It’s not that any of the people in Tom’s life are particularly evil, it’s how he perceived and responded to them. Similarly, it’s not that any of the people in my life are particularly evil, but rather how I perceive and respond to them. Leadership and Self-Deception turns the focus from others to self in its pursuit of healthier, well-minded people.

So often our biggest problem is as Tom says, “I couldn’t see that I had a problem.” It reminds me of a story Timothy Keller told in his book The Prodigal God about G.K. Chesterton. “When a newspaper posed the question, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ the Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response: ‘Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G. K. Chesterton.’” Chesterton recognized that he had a problem and his problem affects the world.

Is our first response to “What’s wrong with the world?” Is to scream and point our finger at all the other people, then we’re going to have a seriously hard time in life. We’ll never be satisfied. But if our response is one of self-reflection, to understand our own brokenness, and the Sin which so often overwhelms us, then we can repent to God and to the people whom we’ve harmed in our selfishness.

Here’s where scholastic moves to realistic: “Merely knowing the material doesn’t get you out of the box. Living it does.” This echoes throughout my life as I think about what I know and how I live.