Role of Self-Deception in Leadership

Topic: Leadership
Words: 1176 Pages: 4


Self-deception is a common reason why projects and even entire companies fail: when someone is blinded by their successes or refuses to see their flaws, it may break all the deal. Leaders often become addicted to their achievements, and their thinking starts to be conditioned by them. Various reasons cause self-deception in leadership: excessive boldness, blinding by achievements, wrong judgments about people. There are more of them, but those mentioned are the most typical for me; thus, they will be described there. They create the box of prejudices, which gives the feeling of being constantly right, even when a leader’s thoughts and actions are, in fact, dangerous.

Self-Deception Areas

Boldness is the most dangerous area: it is the source of both wrong judgments and blinding by achievements. Despite that, it is not a bad quality by itself: boldness gives confidence that helps maintain the stability of thoughts and personality. It is essential for the leader to be an example of power, strength, and effectiveness for their team. The problems begin when confidence transforms to overconfidence: the leader thinks they are “all-mighty” and considers their desires the one source of truth. Other people are often seen as mere objects, which may be manipulated; their feelings and desires are often neglected for the sake of the leader’s vision (The Arbinger Institute, 2018). It worsens relationships with the actual world, and an overly bold leader risks becoming in the box of self-deception and prejudices.

When one has good results in a particular area, one may be blinded by them, starting to think that they are right in everything and their actions are perfect. The box of prejudices twists the leader’s vision, and their desires directly influence it, leading to wishful thinking. Thus, connection with reality is lost, and actual challenges may be unnoticed. They may break the leader’s plans and make their ideas irrelevant, leading to losses and efficiency flaws.

All mentioned areas of self-deception are interconnected with another one: worsening of relationships with people. When the leader is overconfident, everything which does not correlate with their vision becomes a problem for them and leads to irritation. The box of prejudices creates a wall between the leader and people, limiting and hindering teamwork. Together with wishful thinking, another consequence of overconfidence, such an approach lowers the performance severely. In addition, it leads to conflicts with people, who become irritated in turn due to wrong treatment from the leader and leave the team (The Arbinger Institute, 2018). In the end, all prejudices are broken with reality, which differs notably from a leader’s vision, and such a leader ends up alone and often in a very bad mood.

How My Blind Spots Impact Me

I consider my boldness my main blind spot: while it helps me achieve my goals when I work on my projects, it also repels people and twists my views on reality. I may easily be irritated when someone acts differently from my own vision, and even if I do not show it directly, people feel it and get uncomfortable near me. My judgments about reality may be rigid and very dependent on my desires, which lead to wrong and ineffective decisions. They become cognitive biases, which should be clearly analyzed and overcome.

My achievements often become my burdens, as I tend to concentrate on them, losing my connection with reality. It is my wrong general quality, which worsens my life, creating biases. For example, when I earn more money than usual, I feel thrilled, motivating me to continue. However, I often lose my clear vision and become addicted to my achievements behind this happiness. When the situation changes, I may not react appropriately, which is necessary to maintain success. That lowers my chances of new successes, and I often lose new opportunities, being blinded by the previous ones which are no more actual.

Wrong judgments are another consequence of my boldness and overconfidence: I tend to judge people and events quickly, and my opinions often become prejudices. They create strong walls around me, strengthening the box of self-deception and making me unable to connect with reality appropriately. I may be overly harsh with people, worsening my relationships, or, contrary, may not be able to resolve the conflict. There were cases when I lost people in my life due to such emotional blindness, and thus, it is essential to overcome those cognitive biases.

How To Overcome Them

Those blind spots mentioned above must be overcome, preventing decision-making and threatening relationships with people. While helping with goal achieving, excessive boldness may create the box of self-deception, and the leader should maintain the balance between confidence and feeling of reality. To overcome biases and self-deception, boldness should not be removed but instead transformed: it should not impact my relationships with other people and my view toward the world. When I want to achieve the goal, my boldness gives me motivation and confidence, and I work steadily until I obtain the result. However, when confidence becomes excessive, I introduce wishful thinking, losing the connection with reality.

The way out of the box starts from questioning whether the thoughts I have at this moment are really true or not. Wrong judgments about the world and inappropriate treatments of people are examples of those biases which should be removed to get out of the box of self-deception. To do that, all judgments about reality, from core life views to opinions about various situations, should be questioned (The Arbinger Institute, 2018). I would introduce the practice of regular recapitulation, analysis, and revision of my beliefs and opinions: writing them out on a sheet of paper and then reviewing them. It would help to see my biases in relationships with reality, which may consciously be removed and changed.

All those actions lead to a broader lifeview, helping to see the world as it is. Such an approach is much better for the leader, who needs to be effective and sure in their actions. It is good to be confident but not overconfident: the difference is in relationships with reality. Confident people are in good connection with reality, and their flexibility allows them to change their strategy quickly when the situation changes. Their self-esteem and efficiency change little during that: as they have no biases and prejudices, there is nothing to break and hurt them, unlike overconfident people. Thus, I have a big motivation to teach myself to question everything and see the world unbiased.


As one may see, there are cognitive flaws and biases which hinder the ability to see things clearly and build relationships with other people. They are often caused by excessive boldness, which creates the box of self-deception, isolating the leader from reality. Its consequences are wrong judgments about people and situations that create dangerous prejudices, making one irritable and rigid. To prevent them, the leader must overcome biases and get out of the box by constantly questioning all their judgments and opinions. It helps balance the confidence and clear vision, making a leader effective and kind to other people.


The Arbinger Institute. (2018). Leadership and self-deception: Getting out of the box. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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