BridgeLite Blog

Leadership: The Muffin-Top Deluision
May 22, 2012

Graphic by Antony Bennison

Yesterday I did it again. Went too far. Asked the question that didn’t need to be asked.

My son just finished a book report. (Always a fun family project) and we were discussing symbols.

I asked him, “if you were to choose a symbol that represents who you are now, what would it be and why?”

He thought for a minute and answered, “a flame.”

He then explained why he chose it with insight and depth I didn’t expected from a fifth grader.

In my surprise – I fell prey to my own curiosity and took it to the next level, not heeding the little voice warning me not to go there… I went there.

“If you were to guess what symbol I would chose, not just as your mom but who I am deep down, what would you guess I’d pick?”

He barely paused. “A muffin top.” He choked through his laugh.

Yes. Of course I was mature. Gave him a playful punch in the arm and wrestled him to prove I am “skinny-tough enough” to still take him. But then had to look in the mirror. How bad is that “muffin-top?” Am I kidding myself? Not seeing what the kid sees?

While funny, I thought about how this is analogous to what many leaders face. Self-deception. The times we are enticed by self-deception to justify our own interests or position only to find what we’re doing or saying is making a situation worse instead of better. Being blind to something in ourselves ourselves that actually hurts us. That hurts others.

 Bob thinks he’s the best manager in the entire company. His employees loath him.

Susie is proud of her results and her efficiency. Teams comply only because they feel bullied. They currently are plotting revenge.

In the book, Leadership and Self Deception, Getting out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute, the concept is explored through a fictional story and journey of a leader new to a company – Tom. The book is excellent, a fast read, and well worth the investment. In their words:

“Self-deception blinds us to the true cause of problems, and once blind, all the ‘solutions’ we can think of actually make matters worse. That’s why self-deception is so central to leadership – because leadership is about making matters better. To the extent that we are self deceived, our leadership is undermined at every turn…”

Where are you being trapped by self-deception? Want to “get out of the box?”

I’d write more – but have to go to the gym. 😛