Leadership and Self-deception: 1 Way to Be Empowered

Leadership and self-deception is the title of an Arbinger Institute book. I highly recommend Arbinger’s books…. they are fantastic and should be required reading. I’m pretty sure at least one of their books is required at my kids’ school.

I want to talk about leadership and self-deception from my perspective. This isn’t a book review… just some thought on the topic.

I have been a student of leadership for many years. I’ve always looked at my own leaders (like church leaders, scout leaders, teachers, even impromptu leaders of impromptu teams, etc.) and observed. I observed what made them successful and what made them destined to fail. My dream was to be a leader in a big, successful organization.

Leadership and self-deception is not one of my courses

In the last few years I’ve created some leadership courses for Pluralsight, including:

Leadership: Getting Started

Leadership for Non-managers

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

Management 101

Granted, Management 101 isn’t necessarily a leadership course but it really helps if a leader understands the fundamentals of management.

I believe that every is, or needs to be, a leader, whether they have a title or not. We need to be leaders of ourselves. That means we figure out how to motivate ourselves, what our vision is, how we act around others, what our standard of integrity is, etc.

When we lead ourselves we can navigate trying challenges, such as a job search. We don’t need to look to someone for direction on everything we do and how we think. We look inside our-self.

Traditional talk around leadership usually has some talk that has a mix of operational management and leading a team or organization. We can easily separate those skills into leader and manager, but you can just as easily keep them very integrated. I’ve worked with people who are excellent leaders and managers and I’ve worked with people who are exceptional leaders but couldn’t manage their way out of a simple problem.

Leadership and Self-deception at Work

Regarding leadership and self-deception, the first thing I thought of is bad leaders. The leaders who have self-deceived to the point where they think they are the cat’s meow. They think they are awesome. They think they can get away with anything and that their contributions are the reason the organization is successful. 

The rest of the company, at least under them in an org chart, are wondering why in the world they still work there?!? Are their bosses afraid of cutting them loose? Do they have some dirt useful to blackmail their bosses? 

How can higher-level leadership allow toxic, cancerous “leaders” to stay around and ruin cultures, drive away key performers, make ridiculous decisions, etc.? 

Leadership and self-deception makes for bad bosses

I’ll never get it, honestly. This is where leadership and self-deception becomes leadership and group deception. 

Having worked in multiple organizations where I’ve seen this play out way more than it should have I’ll tell you this: there are things you cannot control or impact in organizations. 

I don’t mean to say that in a defeatist way. Too often it is simply how it is. “It is what it is,” as the YOLO crowd says. So then what?

If you can’t impact changes in the organization you can leave. I know that is hard, sometimes seemingly impossible, but if you are working with a toxic leader it might be better for your mental and physical health to walk away. 

Please, always be looking for new opportunities. That doesn’t mean you have to pursue them, or you are disloyal to your company. It simply means you are aware of what’s going on, aware of your own value, and aware that where you are now is probably not where you’ll be for the next ten or twenty years. 

Some of my favorite JibberJobber stories are of those who continue to network even after they land a job. Get that… networking while you have a job? The horror! No, not really. The real horror is when you have gotten comfortable, stopped networking, and then find yourself in a stressful job search with a cold network. 

Don’t let someone else’s leadership and self-deception get in the way of your job satisfaction and career fulfillment. My Career Management 2.0 course is all about YOU taking charge of your career instead of just accepting bad bosses and bad roles as they come at you. 

How do you remain empowered through a bad boss? Through the bad part of leadership and self-deception? By managing your career. By growing and nurturing your network. By intentionally working on your personal brand. And, when the time is right, by creating additional income streams. Those are the “secrets” to being empowered in your career, even against horrible bosses.