I recently read a book titled Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger InstituteThe preface of the book began with a metaphor about a baby crawling backwards under a piece of furniture and getting stuck. Everything the baby tries to do only manages to get it even more stuck. With its mounting frustration were the baby able to articulate its problem, it would say the furniture is the problem, not the fact that it is its own lack of vision that is preventing the baby from seeing how to actually get out from the position it is in. The book's premise is that we are often in the state that the baby finds itself in. That from that position we then label the people around us and other things in our environment the "problem" in our lives and cannot see our own implicit participation in making ourselves miserable and stressed.

The book is written as the story of a new manager at a company who spends two days with upper management learning about how he is "stuck in the box" in relation to others in his life. The way to being an effective leader is getting out of the box and engaging honestly and openly with those that one is working with, no matter their relationship to you. Their teachings relate to family life, work, driving and more.

The book is pretty basic. I understand why the consultant recommended it, but I feel a more effective way to talk about what the authors call "being in the box" is to actually frame the conversation as it relates to power. At heart the book is about people's potential power and whether or not they choose to act on that power. One event discussed in the story is the CEO awakening to his baby crying in the night. At the moment he wakes up, he thinks he should get up and tend to the baby so that his wife can get some rest. He doesn't get up and instead starts to resent his wife for not getting up. Because he did not act on the power he had to make his wife's life better, he becomes angry at her, self-righteous and as the book puts it, ends up in "the box".

What then encourages people to act on their power? Yes, once they have given up the power to act, discussing "being in the box" is helpful to have people recognize that they have given up their potential, but what if instead we start the conversation before that. Ask why people are getting in the box in the first place and then structure things so that instead of doing that they are able to recognize their potential power and act on it. I think this has a lot to do with people finding the things that they love, the passions in their lives and being able to express their authentic voice.