I read "Leadership and Self-Deception, Getting Outside of the Box" several years ago in graduate school and was delighted at the premise it supposed. An editorial note for the book states,
The "disease" of self-deception (acting in ways contrary to what one knows is right) underlies all leadership problems in today's organizations, according to the premise of this work. However well-intentioned they may be, leaders who deceive themselves always end up undermining their own performance. This straightforward book explains how leaders can discover their own self-deceptions and learn how to escape destructive patterns. The authors demonstrate that breaking out of these patterns leads to improved teamwork, commitment, trust, communication, motivation, and leadership.
When I read the book, my mind went to the idea of relativism. Relativism can indicate that anything is righteous and good, as long as we simply say so after creating some form of rationalization for believing so. As a form of existentialism, a relativistic perspective in leadership often translates as the leader making decisions based on a compromised set of values and beliefs. Leadership relativism is particularly damaging simply because leaders lead... and those who follow will undoubtedly be affected by all decisions of the leader; good or bad. Existentialism is the opponent of an organizational values-driven decision-making paradigm.
- a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.
The existential principle that people should have unilateral control over their choices and actions has become a troubling contemporary issue in society. On the surface the belief that society should not restrict an individual's life or actions owing to the tenet that these restrictions inhibit free will and the development of that person's potential can be perceived as a positive concept. Who wouldn't want to have total control over the feelings, actions, and words one chooses to share with the world?
However, herein lies the problem.