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Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  29,680 ratings  ·  2,733 reviews
Since its original publication in 2000, Leadership and Self-Deception has become a word-of-mouth phenomenon. Its sales continue to increase year after year, and the book's popularity has gone global, with editions now available in over twenty languages.

Leadership and Self-Deception shows how the problems that typically prevent superior performance in organizations and caus
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published January 1st 2000)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  29,680 ratings  ·  2,733 reviews

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Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard book to read - not because the language or ideas are lofty (just the opposite, the ideas have been made extremely accessible) -- the reason this book was hard to read, is because it nearly forces you to take a hard look at the way you live, the way you treat others, and the way you navigate through business, personal, and other situations.

The biggest take aways from this book, in my humble opinion, are that we often are at least part of the cause of the problems that we *blame* o
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: work-related
Good principles, a good teaching tool for organizations, but painful to get through.

I assume the story format is aimed to make the read easier to get through and understand, but instead it felt like a local TV commercial with a bad script. I would prefer that the narrator was straight, to-the-point and speaking to the reader. Examples are helpful, but following Tom's slow learning process made me feel like I was in a math class that I was too advanced for, ready to move on to the more complicate
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: personal-growth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
There was a part of this right near the end of the ‘book’ where the authors say ‘Don’t use the vocabulary—“the box,” and so on—with people who don’t already know it’ - and I thought, ‘oh we go.’ In the afterword they say that one of the impacts of the book has been how it has helped people all over the world in various ways - and that they even have ‘out of the box’ parties in Japan. If you are keen to join a HR cult - this is one that is perhaps not as bad as some others you might f ...more
Antoinette Perez
Really struggled with this book, and I see from the average rating that I'm in the minority here. The contrived fable format... the condescending, read-my-mind closed question interrogations... the shallow introspection... the insistence on the reader forgetting what he or she knows about the phrases "in the box" and "out of the box" to adopt a new meaning just for this book... long-winded (pages-long) pseudo-explanations of new concepts and jargon that only muddy the waters more, like this exce ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Was required reading at my company, would not have gone down this path on my own accord. The only saving grace is this book is an incredibly fast and fluffy read. The whole point? Treat people with respect, talk to them like humans, don't be a judge-y asshole that externalizes your problems and develop some emotional awareness, bruh. This point is reiterated through 170 pages of pseudo-philosophical enlightenment dialogue between "Tom," the emotionally maldeveloped executive, and his sage mentor ...more
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"My self-justifying image about being learned can be the very thing that sometimes keeps me from learning."
- The Arbinger Institute, Leadership and Self-Deception


Like most series, I tend to read them backwards. I've known about these Arbinger books for years, but only recently read them. Last year I read Anatomy of Peace and figured it made sense to close the circle on the "box" and read the book that started the whole Arbinger/Self-Deception/Leadership thing.

A quick background (I talk about th
Eric Glenn
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in one day...I just couldn't put it down. An excellent book on how to be a better person and leader. Really set well with my beliefs on building relationships which are the love of others versus love of self. I think I will buy this book for each of my adult children to read. Hopefully they can learn these concepts faster than the 52 years it has taken me!

It is also a MUST read for leaders in business, especially if you are involved in Network Marketing. Really it is a must rea
Laura Broder
Feb 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I'm serious.

I'm not really into management books, but this one was recommended to me by a friend and mentor who I respect immensely. She gave me her copy months and months ago, and boy do I wish I picked it up sooner.

Firstly, this book is incredibly readable. Though it's about communication and interpersonal relationships, it's not a dry, non-fiction handbook. The concepts the book present are unveiled slowly, through a fictional story. Tons of real-life examples are use
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So I read this back in college because Terry Warner (the author of Bonds That Make Us Free on whose ideas this book is based) was my freshman year philosophy professor. The man is amazing. He's a saint and he's brilliant and his ideas have been my life's guiding principles. I've read Bonds that Make us Free like 10 times. I hated this when I first read it college, but then I just re-read it again because it's short and I wanted a reminder. And it's like reading beautiful ideas of philosophy (roo ...more
Mar 15, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book should be renamed "straight men learn how to be empathetic and not assholes to women, especially in the workplace". LOL, all the main characters in this book are men and are aggressive, patronizing, and downright cruel towards all the women in this book, and then the men learn how to be better people. I feel like there are some good concepts in here, and this would be a great read for someone who is low on emotional intelligence or empathy and needs to expand their worldview to learn h ...more
Dan George
May 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leadership
The core ideas in the book -- what the authors call getting "in the box" toward others and how to get out of the box -- are helpful. However, two things keep me from giving this book a higher rating.

First, the story the authors use to introduce these core ideas to the reader could have been much shorter with higher impact. See Patrick Lencioni's business fables for an example of that.

Second, two key terms in the book -- "in the box" and "self-betrayal" -- are not good fits for what the authors
Nov 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book that teaches powerful principles that I have already begun implementing to great effect in my own life. The principles we already know for the most part, and the general truths don't surprise, but The Arbinger Institute has blended and crafted them in such a way as to help us really put it all together. My favorite and most meaningful insight is that when we are "in the box" it doesn't matter what we do, how helpful or good we try to be, we will end up defeating ourselves. Forget blame an ...more
Ian Stewart
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent extended business-oriented parable on what happens when you ignore the instinctual feeling to help those around you. You either honor that feeling or you betray it. What happens when you betray it? It ain’t good according to the book. It’s self-betrayal that sets off a chain of events that leaves you feeling justified and others looking contemptible. You wind up calling that your character and living in a warped version of reality with warped results in all your actions. Worse still yo ...more
Philip Joubert
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The analogy of "being in the box" is stupid...but the concepts and knowledge is this book is awesome. The book articulated something I've tried to explain to myself but was unable to do, at least not to this level of clarity.

This is going into my "books all managers should read" list.

Notes for myself:
- You get in the box due to self-betrayal
- *After* that you justify your action (or lack of action) by making the other person seem terrible and yourself seem great
- After a while you can be default
Farnoosh Brock
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business-spirit
The premise of this book focuses on one's own limited view of people, relationships, and organizational dynamics and clearly shows them as obstacles to one's optimal performance and productivity. The Arbinger Institute reveals the new thoughts and debunks false notions around leadership. The best leadership and business books weave the concepts into a story rather than disseminate them in dry abstract paragraphs. Try as it may, abstraction always comes short of making us engage and anticipate th ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't know if there's some kind of sub-genre for covertly religious business books, but I feel like there should be. I guess I read a book called "The Greatest Salesman in the World" or something when I was a missionary that wasn't even covert. There's also all the religious subtext of books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

Anyway, this book is in that category. What it does is reformulate some basic concepts of spiritual / ethical living in to
Corinne Edwards
"WHAT?" you say to yourself. WHAT is this fantasy-story-loving girl doing reading a book that demands shelving on the business/psychology shelf? And a valid question it is. I would never in one thousand years have picked it up if my dearly beloved husband hadn't read it first and told me that it changed his life. Changed it to the point where I am SEEING him look at the world in a different way. And when my husband, who has watched me read for 11+ years now and has never once asked me to read so ...more
Simon Eskildsen
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread
You know that occasional, elusive thought of something you should do? Like taking out the trash? But instead of doing it, you replace it resentment. Why am I always the one taking out the garbage? In an instant, you conjure up a reality where your inaction is wholly justified: They need to pull their share of the responsibilities and take out the trash more often. In this new reality you've created, the resentment feeds on itself as you wait for them to do it. But they don't. Because they can't ...more
Feb 27, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The book belabors and repeats the idea of being “in” or “out” of “the box.” While I understand creating your own language for an idea as a metaphor, the word box was used ad nauseum throughout the book. I found the premise of a company COO taking a full day to enlighten managers about how to treat people rather preposterous. Even more so the life-changing epiphany experienced by Tom. After the first chapter or two, there are no new ideas expressed; merely a rehashing of the same idea over and ov ...more
Nathan Shelton
Jul 09, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this book for a leadership training at my internship next week. I will say that it’s not a typical book on my reading list, but I did actually enjoy it.

A really cool concept that reminded me of a class that I took this past semester on how we know the right thing to do but do the opposite — self-damaging impulses; it was good to see this applied in a professional/workplace setting.

Maybe I should start reading more leadership books 🤷‍♂️
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Honestly one of the best books on leadership and personal growth I have ever read. I have read a lot too. This book seems to have been written right to me. I do not think this book is for everyone, but more for the people that feel like they have tried a lot of approaches and have not found the success or the correct advice just yet. The principles discussed in this book are explained to a very simple level with many great examples and real life experiences that most will be able to relate to. I ...more
Sep 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life changing way to look at the people around us and our influence on them.

I have just gone through this book with another student and it has changed his life. He just apologized to his father for some serious stuff that he would not admit to in the past. He said he does not like his dad still but needs to treat him as a person because that is more fair.

What better endorsement for a book?

This is the fourth student I have gone through this book with and it is a great intervention in therapy. I h
Thai Duc
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
People should read the book. It gives a new way of looking at our behaviors. It gives you an option to look at your acting. By knowing them, you can gradually live a better life, run organizations better. The book does not give you answers for your problems. It gives you the truth.
I love the "Box" concept and the drawing. The drawing delivered a big impact on my memory.
While reading the book, I reflected, I got so many ah-ha moments. The book is my environment to open the other sides of the box.
Jesse Stay
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: improving-life
A guidebook for life! This excellent book uses a fictional example to get you thinking "out of the box" in how you interact with others, both in business and in your personal life. This should be mandatory reading for every employee and family member. You find yourself in the shoes of the characters as they go through problems in their lives, realizing that we all have these same problems in our relationships with people. I'll be having my kids all read this! This book will help you, and everyon ...more
Read for my Professional Development Book Club. Quick read, as much as for personal growth as for professional. Excellent if you are aiming to be a good person and improve the lives of those with whom you live and work, although you could be financially successful without doing any of this...and apparently even become President of the United States.
Todd Brown
Felt a little bit like drinking the kool-aid. Also, a little elementary in the fictional story method of delivering the message. They did not focus on the solution near enough. Really a fancy way of saying live the golden rule. It is always a good reminder to check to see if you are living The Rule.
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good ideas, and a clever way of communicating the ideas while keeping the reader engaged. A little hokey in parts, but it worked good for the subject I thought.
Havebooks Willread
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-improvment
Both excellent and convicting, this book reminds us to see people as PEOPLE and to treat them as such rather than considering how we can use or manipulate them for our own purposes. I highly recommend this book and hope to read the next book, The Anatomy of Peace.

I was intrigued by the style of this self-help book as it was written as a first-person story which made it easy to read. He uses the analogy of "being in a box" as the times that we aren't seeing others as people, but rather are selfis
Nov 20, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Unobjectionable but unimpressive. From what I have heard, when this book is required reading at a workplace, the people who most desperately need to address their own self-deception love this book but think it applies to everyone else except for them. The people who already function compassionately, honestly and competently don't really need this in the first place. Good intentions alone don't make good interventions: I would really like to see any independent evaluation of how this material hel ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
What God is Not: Leadership and Self-Deception 1 13 Feb 09, 2021 05:13AM  
Accountability 2 14 May 08, 2018 11:01AM  
Paradigm Shifting...: In the box 1 4 Jul 23, 2016 04:11AM  
Noteworthy: The B...: Thoughts On: Leadership and Self Deception 2 9 Jun 21, 2016 10:37PM  

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Arbinger was founded in 1979. Since then, Arbinger has worked with thousands of individuals and organizations and helped them to transform their effectiveness and performance.

Early on, Arbinger’s growth was fueled solely by clients who spread the word about Arbinger’s impact. Arbinger’s public profile was then dramatically increased by the global success of its first book, Leadership & Self Decept

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25 likes · 3 comments
“Self-deception is like this. It blinds us to the true causes of problems, and once we’re blind, all the “solutions” we can think of will actually make matters worse. Whether at work or at home, self-deception obscures the truth about ourselves, corrupts our view of others and our circumstances, and inhibits our ability to make wise and helpful decisions.” 10 likes
“Whenever we are in the box, we have a need that is met by others’ poor behavior. And so our boxes encourage more poor behavior in others, even if that behavior makes our lives more difficult.” 4 likes
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