Quick summary of Leadership and Self-Deception

Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute, is a leadership fable which discusses two concepts – “In the Box” and “Out of the Box”.

Once a person is “in the box”, they see others in a distorted way and as a source of their problem. The person “in the box” sees himself as the centre of the world and others as mere objects – whose needs are secondary and less legitimate than their own.  He, more often than not, blames others and finds faults with whatever others do or say. For the person “in the box”, his needs come before anybody else’s and only after they are satisfied, does he look at needs of others. And   a person “in the box” could face issues such as  a lack of commitment, lack of engagement, poor team work, backbiting, lack of trust, communication problems among others. It is because being “in the box” limits our ability to reach our full potential and betrays the basic obligation that we have to see others as they are, as people.

A person “out of the box” sees others as People – as a person who has feelings, hopes, fears and needs.  A person who is ‘out of the box’ places his needs and the needs of others on the same level.  He is a good communicator, tries to motivate people around and can deliver even the hardest messages without any ill feeling.     The motivation for smart people to be smarter and for skilled people to be even more skilled, is for them to be treated in a straightforward manner, and to give them the respect and dignity they deserve.  A person “out of the box” creates an environment of openness, trust and teamwork where people work hard, put in effort for the collective good of the group not for individual accomplishments.

There is a nice summary at the end of the book :

  • Self betrayal leads to self-deception and “the box”
  • When you are in the box, you cannot focus on the results
  • Your influence and success will depend on being out of the box
  • You get out of the box as you cease resisting other people
  • Don’t try to be perfect. Do try to be better
  • Don’t use the vocabulary “the box” and so on – with people who don’t already know it. Do use the principles in your own life
  • Don’t look for others’ boxes. Do look for your own
  • Don’t accuse others of being in the box. Do try to stay out of the box yourself
  • Don’t give up on yourself when you discover you have been in the box. Do keep trying
  • Don’t deny that you have been in the box when you have been. Do apologise, then just keep marching forward, trying to be more helpful in the future.
  • Don’t focus on what others are doing wrong. Do focus on what you can do right to help
  • Don’t worry whether others are helping you. Do worry whether you are helping others.

I particularly liked a 10 minute video by Callibrain summarizing the book  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-X-P0tzlF8


The 10 Core Values of Zappos

I recently read Tony Hsieh’s “Delivering Happiness – A Path to  Passion, Profits and Purpose” and I found it a very inspiring read.  We, in the Agile world often hear of the Zappos culture and values –  which looks very simple from the outside, but very difficult to follow in the real sense of the term.

I have summarised the 10 Core Values which Zappos lives by, in letter and spirit.  Here is a brief summary of those Core Values   —>  The 10 Core Values of Zappos

Brief Summary of The DevOps Handbook

The DevOps Handbook is a truly comprehensive book on DevOps.  It covers the theory principles and practices to start off a DevOps initiative.  The book covers the whole gamut of DevOps from the cultural aspects, flow, feedback, continuous improvement, value streams, the foundations for the Deployment pipeline automated testing, Continuous Integration, , Continuous delivery and deployment, the popular tools and metrics collected, right up to integration security and compliance as part of regular work.   The case studies from Netflix, Target, Etsy, Google and others gives us a clear picture of how the concepts and principles are put into practise.

The book complements ‘The Phoenix project’ and “Lean Enterprise” in terms of content related to DevOps.

Here is a brief summary of the book  -> the-devops-handbook-summary

The Ideal Team Player

Patrick Lencioni in his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a team” talks of  group behaviours that destroy team work – absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results.

In his latest book, “The Ideal Team Player”, Lencioni focusses on the three virtues of an individual team member and how they are important in building great teams.  The three virtues are Humility, Hungry and Smart.



According to CS Lewis, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”. Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of other team members and are either slow or do not seek attention for their own. For them the team is more important than the self, they share credit, and define success collectively rather than individually


Hungry people are the “give me more” type of people – more things to do, more to learn, more responsibility to take on. Being “hungry” is about having a manageable sustainable commitment in doing a job well and going above and beyond when required. They are always thinking about the next step and the next opportunity.


Smarts refers to a person’s common sense about people.  They know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in an effective manner. They are curious, ask good questions, listen to what others are saying and stay engaged in conversations intently. They have good judgement and intuition around the subtleties of group dynamics and the impact of their words or action.

Ideal Team Player

An Ideal Team Player would have all the three virtues in combination.  The Ideal Team Player is vulnerable, builds trust, engages in productive abut uncomfortable conflict, commit to group decisions even if they initially disagree, hold their peers accountable when they see performance gaps and put the results of the team ahead of their own needs.

Those who lack all three qualities have little chance of being valuable team members.  It would take great effort over long period of time for them to develop the capacity for all three, let alone two or even one.

Here are the characteristics of individuals who have only one or two of these virtues.

Humble Only – The Pawn

“Pawns” are pleasant, kind hearted unassuming people who don’t feel an urgency to get things done and don’t have the ability to build effective relationships with colleagues. They often get left out of conversations and activities and have little impact on the performance of a team. “Pawns” can survive quite a long time on teams that value harmony and don’t demand performance.

Hungry Only – The Bulldozer

“Bulldozers” are determined to get things done, but with a focus on their own interests and with no understanding or concern for how their actions impact others. They are quick destroyers of teams. In organizations that emphasizes on production alone, bulldozers can thrive and go uncorrected for long periods of times.

Smart only – The Charmer

People who are smart, but sorely lacking in humility and hunger are “Charmers”. They can be entertaining and even likeable for a while, but have little interest in the long-term well-being of the team. Their social skills can sometimes help them survive longer than bulldozers or pawns, but often their contributions to the teams are negligible, they often wear out their welcome quickly.

Humble and Hungry, but not Smart – The Accidental Mess maker

They genuinely want to help and serve the team and are not too interested in getting undue credit and attention. However, they lack understanding of how their words are actions are received by others in the team will lead to interpersonal problems. While colleagues will respect their work ethic and sincere desire to be helpful, those colleagues can get tired of having to clean up the emotional and inter personal problems that this group often leaves behind. Accidental Mess Makers have no bad intentions and can usually take corrective feedback in good humor.

Humble and Smart, but not Hungry – The Lovable Slacker

They are extremely good at working with and caring about colleagues. Unfortunately, they tend to do only as much as they are asked and rarely seek to take on more work or volunteer for extra assignments. They have limited passion for the work – he and the team are doing. Lovable slackers need significant motivation and oversight or else they could pull down the performance of the team.

Hungry and smart, but not Humble – The Skillful Politician

These people are ambitious, willing to work extremely hard, but only in as much as it will benefit them personally. Skillful politicians, being smart, they are adept in portraying themselves as being humble, making it hard for leaders to identify them and address their destructive behaviors. By the time the leader sees what’s going on, the politician may have created a trail of destruction among their humbler colleagues.

Humble, Hungry and Smart  – The Ideal Team Player

Ideal team players possess all the three virtues humility – hunger and people smarts, in equal measure. They do not take credit for their contributions and are comfortable in sharing their accolades with other team members. Ideal team players are passionate, work with high energy and take personal responsibility   taking on whatever they possibly can for the good of the team. They do and say the right things to help team mates feel appreciated, understood, and included even when difficult situations arise that require tough love.

So, having known the virtues of the “Ideal Team Player” – where can you apply them?   Lencioni says the model could be great in hiring, assessing current employees and developing them into great team players and embedding them into the organization culture.




Brief Summary of ‘The Skilled Facilitator’

This is a brief summary of the book ‘The Skilled Facilitator’ by Roger Schwartz.  Though this is not a comprehensive summary of the book, this writeup gives a broad overview  of what Facilitation is all about.

Another great book on Facilitation is “The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making” by Sam Kaner .

Here is the brief summary of the book –> brief-summary-of-the-skilled-facilitator

Brief Summary of Mastering Leadership

I just finished reading “Mastering Leadership” by Bob Anderson and Bill Adams – a great read on Leadership.  I feel this book along with “Leadership Agility” by Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs covers most of the bases required to understand Leadership competencies, the different levels of leadership and Leadership models to develop great leaders.

Here is a brief summary of the book –>  brief-summary-of-mastering-leadership