Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Review of 'Leadership and Self Deception' by The Arbinger Institute

A few months back I was chatting with a friend on Linkedin who is, alongside his day job, a leadership coach. Being someone who doesn't have much trouble self teaching I didn't think I was in need of coaching, but I did think this person might be able to give me a few useful recommendations for books on leadership.

And out of this conversation one of the books that came to light was 'Leadership and Self-Deception' by the Arbinger Institute. After learning of the book I thought a few synopses I had found might do the trick, but when I saw it's low price I bought it anyway.

Turns out the synopsis really would have been enough, but while reading through the book the text did crystallize the main theme. The theme itself was simple: a true leader is someone who looks at other people as having feelings and desires of their own, rather than as objects to be used for their own ends.

To me this was concise and pretty much to the point. What is the point of leading if your leading isn't aimed at making the lives of other people better? What would the value of leadership itself be if not done for benevolent purposes? Why speak of leadership in the positive at all? The theme really cut to the difference between someone who is in a position of power, and someone who is a true leader. Being in power does not imply leadership, it implies control.

As for the text itself, while there was value in it, it was really not that substantive, and for most people the main concept could be made intuitive in just a few pages (but hey, you can't sell a book that's just a few pages long).

The style of the book also took the form of a real life conversation between business people, which seemed to stretch on page after page, and never really offer anything other than a re-iteration of the main theme. It may have been an appealing approach for some readers, but I found the book painful and annoying to read at times.

If you're interested in the book after reading this post but find my description gives you the main gist of it, the fact is it probably does. There may be a few interesting passages throughout, but I don't know that they would be worth the price. So overall: decent message, but stretching it out into a text is probably taking it too far.

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