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Executive Summary: Strategic Leader Self-Awareness and Self-Deception

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.

For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?

How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?

Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5, New Living Translation

What makes a great strategic leader? If you ask a leader if they are exemplary in their role as a strategic leader, will you get an honest answer or one geared more toward self-service? And who determines if a leader is exemplary; the leader themselves, their followers, or the recipients of their outputs? If a great leader leads ethically, with the best interests of their followers and their organization in mind, then the opposite, a self-deceptive leader, could be destructive to themselves, their followers, and their organization. Where a leader falls along this continuum may be a result of how well they know themselves.

The purpose of my research was to find ways an organization can identify self-deceptive leadership behaviors and practices. These insights will help the organization to encourage and empower those leaders to more accurately self-assess their leadership style working toward greater self-awareness. This study will help an organization limit the destructiveness of self-deception and improve performance and worker satisfaction through strategic leader self-awareness.


For the strategic leader of any organization, self-awareness is vital. The authors of Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in our Organization’s Enduring Success, defined a strategic leader as a leader who creates the direction, alignment, and commitment needed for an organization to achieve its potential enduring performance.[1] The well-being of the organization and the people who serve it are dependent on the leader. To compound the importance of strategic leader self-awareness, the increasingly complex operating environment and emotionally-charged, fast-paced workplace challenges leaders to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.[2] The workforce is being pushed harder than ever to produce superior products and services due to intense competition. They are being tempted by their leadership to lie more often to help themselves avoid being the victims of downsizing, increase profit margins, and land high-pressure sales.[3]

Self-awareness, self-mastery, empathy, and social skills are leadership essentials when someone holds others' fate in their hands. Command of oneself is a capability an effective strategic leader must have to succeed.[4] Today's complexities make it all the more critical that leaders understand what they are capable of and what they need expert help with when governing an organization.


Self-deception is more common than one would think, given the importance of self-aware leaders to the well-being of the organization and its constituents. Nineteenth-Century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche believed that self-deception was the most common lie, more so than lying to others.[5] Deception is the avoidance of or intentional hiding of the truth. Self-deception is the lies one tells themselves and the secrets they keep from themselves.[6] Self-deception is similar to lying to others, in that the self-deceiving individual lies to themselves or intentionally biases the information they receive.[7]

Self-deception, especially in strategic leaders, is damaging to the self and damaging to others. At times, one engages in self-deception to deny something to themselves, usually negative information that may harm or incriminate them. At other times, self-deception is a self-serving process. It is a means to project something on to others that is true of the self-deceiving person.[8] The process one goes through when they self-deceive is a psychological one that biases their decision-making. At the highest levels of an organization, leaders who engage in self-deception may condone or engage in behaviors they would not tolerate with greater self-awareness. They may even notice others’ unethical and damaging behavior while ignoring their own.[9] Therein lies the danger of strategic leader self-deception.

Purpose of this Project

Self-awareness is essential to countering damaging self-deception. The cost to the organization of strategic leader self-deception is a misapprehension of reality. A leader who self-deceives can easily generate significant costs to the organization and its constituents.[10] Low self-awareness in a leader can lead to an overestimation of one’s performance and potential, leaving them thinking their functioning is superior to that of their peers. A less self-aware leader will not be as likely to challenge their performance standards.[11] This harmful ignorance is self-inflicted. A leader can be dangerously wrong about themselves and the weight of the degree of harm they cause. Self-deceiving leaders misjudge their responsibilities to their organization and their associates and lack the capacity to reverse this direction.[12]

This project will help strategic leaders understand the importance of self-awareness and the consequences of damaging self-deception. By exploring the theoretical concepts of self-awareness and self-deception, leaders will learn that there is information available from scholars and practitioners to help them understand how to be better leaders. By investigating current efforts to raise self-awareness and battle self-deception, leaders will discover what their contemporaries are doing to produce better leaders.

Blog Release Schedule

Section 1: Introduction

Blog post week 1: Executive Summary: Strategic Leader Self-Awareness and Self-Deception

Blog post week 2: Self-Awareness and Self-Deception: What We Tell Ourselves the Truth Is

Section 2: Strategic Leader Self-Awareness

Blog post week 3: Self-Awareness: Overcoming Self-Deception

Blog post week 4: Congruency of Words, Deeds, and Intentions

Blog post week 5: Authentic Leadership

Blog post week 6: Charismatic Leadership

Blog post week 7: Self-Efficacy, Self-Confidence, and the Inflating Ego

Blog post week 8: Fooling Oneself for a Sense of Control

Blog post week 9: Trust

Blog post week 10: Self-Evaluation

Blog post week 11: Unbiased Understanding of Strengths and Weaknesses

Blog post week 12: Great Leaders Readily Embrace Ethical Decisions

Blog post week 13: Self-Assessment Versus Others’ Assessment

Blog post week 14: Leaders Achieve Self-Awareness Through Feedback

Blog post week 15: Impacting Others

Blog post week 16: Connecting with Followers

Blog post week 17: Impression Management

Blog post week 18: Self-Aware Teams: Leader Self-Awareness Affects More Than Just the Leader

Blog post week 19: Leaders Can Be Disconnected from Reality

Blog post week 20: Strategic Leader Self-Awareness Enablers

Section 3: Strategic Leader Self-Deception

Blog post week 21: Detecting Self-Deception

Blog post week 22: Degrees of Self-Deception

Blog post week 23: Mental Partitioning

Blog post week 24: Where Deception Hides in the Levels of Consciousness

Blog post week 25: Getting Away with Self-Deception

Blog post week 26: Misrepresenting Reality to Deal with Conflicting Information

Blog post week 27: Self-Deception Strategies Bound in Information Processing

Blog post week 28: Leader Blind Spots

Blog post week 29: The Evolutionary Value of Self-Deception

Blog post week 30: The Self-Deception Process

Blog post week 31: Blame

Blog post week 32: The Mental Toll of Self-Deception

Blog post week 33: Ethical Fading

Blog post week 34: Psychological Numbing

Blog post week 35: Inaccurate Estimation of Abilities Negatively Impacts Performance

Blog post week 36: The Negative Results of Self-Deception

Blog post week 37: Self-Deception Enhances Others-Deception

Blog post week 38: Deception Detection

Blog post week 39: Environments Conducive to Leader Self-Deception

Blog post week 40: Strategic Leader Self-Deception Enablers

Section 4: Conclusion

Blog post week 41: Findings

Blog post week 42: Recommendations for Creating Self-Aware Strategic Leaders

Blog post week 43: Recommendations for Discouraging Self-Deception in Strategic Leaders

Blog post week 44: Recommendations for Future Research

[1] Hughes et al. (2014) [2] Hinkle (2018) [3] Williams et al. (2009) [4] Hinkle (2018) [5] Williams (2009) [6] Bok (1989) [7] Trivers (2006) [8] Trivers (2006) [9] Bazerman and Tenbrunsel (2011) [10] Trivers (2006) [11] Kuntz and Abbott (2017) [12] Bok (1989)

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