7 Ways to Deal with the Lies Leaders Tell Themselves

When you screw up, someone didn’t follow through. When others screw up, they procrastinated.

It’s not if, but how you lie to yourself.


You fail because of circumstances.

Others fail because of character.* They lack initiative. They don’t have what it takes.

When leaders lie to themselves, they:

  1. Affirm themselves.
  2. Disaffirm others.
  3. Close minds.
  4. Live with blindspots.
  5. Strain relationships.
  6. Disconnect.
  7. Demotivate teams.

The lies we believe about ourselves cause us to deny the obvious and defend the ridiculous.

7 lies you may believe about yourself:

  1. Everyone else is over it because you’re over it. This morning’s emotional outburst is ancient history.
  2. Your team loves it when you tweak their work.
  3. Others don’t see your weaknesses.
  4. If you put your hands over your eyes, that nagging problem will eventually disappear.
  5. You’re a good listener.
  6. You don’t have a problem with arrogance.
  7. Your way is the best way.

7 ways to deal with the lies you tell yourself:

  1. Ask for suggestions when someone points out something you don’t see in yourself. “What suggestions do you have for me, with this shortcoming in mind?’
  2. Listen for excuses and blaming in your language. What comes after, “That’s because?” Is it someone else or are you taking responsibility?
  3. Just believe that we all lie to ourselves.
  4. Lean toward agreement. Whisper in your own ear, “They could be right.”
  5. Connect with an honest mentor, coach, or adviser.
  6. Invite people to point out blindspots in the moment. “Tell me right when you see it. Don’t wait until next week.”
  7. Say, “Thank you,” when you hear something that doesn’t align with your self-perceptions. ‘Go with’ before pushing back.

What lies do leaders tell themselves?

How might we deal with our tendency to tell ourselves lies?

*I first read the idea of how circumstances are the reason we fail and character is the reason others fail from “Thanks for the Feedback,” by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.