Why Do Leaders Deceive Themselves?

The secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one’s own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes. ~ George Orwell

As much as we’d like to believe that we’re rational human beings, we can all too easily mislead ourselves. Self-deception is a process that encourages us to justify our false and invalid beliefs. (photo courtesy freedigitalphotos.net)

Individuals, organizations and communities all experience self-deception — the root of most problems, according to the Arbinger Institute, a Utah-based consulting firm. It’s human nature to blame others, externalize causes and deny our role in organizational struggles. This tendency is so pervasive that few of us escape its reach, and self-deception intrudes into every aspect of our lives. Nowhere is it more destructive than at the top of the leadership food chain.

As someone responsible for influencing others, consider this: Self-deception blinds you to the true source of most conflicts. Once you’re caught in its trap, all of the “solutions” you propose will likely make matters worse. You’ll find that your self-deception:

  • Obscures the truth about yourself
  • Corrupts your view of others and your circumstances
  • Destroys your credibility and the trust others have in you
  • Inhibits your ability to persuade others
  • Thwarts wise decision-making

The extent of your self-deception determines how much your happiness and leadership efforts will be undermined. Without some form of intervention, your performance will suffer, and your subordinates will remain unengaged.

Fortunately, recognizing this leadership trap can inoculate you against its consequences. If, however, you believe that guarding yourself against wishful thinking will prevent self-deception, you may be in for a bumpy ride.

This article summarizes the importance of examining self-deception at all levels to improve teamwork, reduce conflict, boost engagement, and achieve remarkable results.


This is a brief synopsis of a 1550 & 980-word article and Article Nuggets*, suitable for consultants’ newsletters for executives and leaders in organizations. It is available for purchase with full reprint rights, which means you may put your name on it and use it in your newsletters, blogs or other marketing materials. You may also modify it and add your personal experiences and perspectives.

The complete 1550-word article includes these important concepts:

  • Are You “In” or “Out” of the Box?
  • The Lake Wobegon Effect
  • Attributing Success and Failure
  • Self-Image: Gathering Evidence
  • Managerial Self-Deception
  • Less Confidence, More Success
  • Inspired Leadership


If you are a Content for Coaches client and your account is current, no need to order. Send me an email to confirm that you wish to use this article for your next newsletter.

All others please use the order links below.

Order Links to purchase this article:

a.    Text, 1550-word Article with Full Reprint Rights, $79 –  
        Why Do Leaders Deceive Themselves? 1550-word article, reprint rights


b.    Text, 980-word Article with Full Reprint Rights, $57 – 
         Why Do Leaders Deceive Themselves? 980-word article, reprint rights 



c.     5 Article Nuggets, a series of blog-style content with Full Reprint Rights, $89
       Why Do Leaders Deceive Themselves?  5 Article Nuggets, blog-style, first-person pronoun,


*Article Nuggets: The same article broken up into 3-5 blog-style sections suitable for a series of blog    posts or shorter newsletter articles.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!