SYNOPSIS, copyright, July, 2001
Hidden Lions is a groundbreaking book that exposes the fundamental problem preventing businesses, organizations, and individuals from attaining genuine leadership effectiveness and consistently strong performance.
The key problem is found in the title itself. Hidden lions are the mental tricks that lead to self-deception and cause us to misperceive situations, undermining our best intentions. Because these lions do their stalking outside our awareness, their debilitating power can be enormous.
Little has been written about this critical element that has sabotaged countless careers and generated organizational strife. Hidden Lions not only brings the problem to the forefront, it also offers specific solutions to tame its destructive force.
It does so in a unique format—speaking to the reader in two voices.
One voice belongs to "Brian," a pseudonym for a businessman who tells his true-life story of learning to lead effectively. Unflinchingly honest and candid, Brian relates numerous anecdotes that expose the hidden lions in himself and his associates. By taming these lions and overcoming the problems they generated over a 15-year span, he rose from a young manager at an electronic products distributor store to the president of a thriving business networks solutioncompany.
The second voice is that of fellow authors Paschal Baute, organizational psychologist, and Tom McAllister, engineer / manager, who give readers a detailed discussion at the end of each chapter on the hidden lions that Brian's story has uncovered to that point.
In so doing, the book offers a compelling, dramatic narrative along with an instructive look into the nature of hidden lions and the ways in which to tame them.
Throughout Brian's story, we discover hidden lions in the managers and staff he encounters —along with the forces outside his awareness that were limiting his ability to succeed. Brian's discovery of his own hidden lion leads readers to explore their own. By exposing them, their negative influence is reduced or eliminated altogether.
Hidden Lions is a story about how to use all of life's experiences to become a successful manager, effective leader, and wise mentor of others—as well as becoming a more fulfilled person.
The book begins with Brian's first job interview and follows him through the ups and downs of his journey to effective leadership—charting not only the lessons he learned on the job, but also the critical insights he made by exploring his personal life and marriage.
Each chapter reveals both Brian's leadership growth as well as the hidden lions poised to subvert effectiveness in each of us. Whenever a hidden lion emerges in the narrative, a numbered lion icon appears in the margins to indicate a "stalking" is going on. These icons serve as markers for the readers, asking them to examine what blindness or oversight is currently happening.
In effect, the narrative becomes a detective story of sorts—a lion safari--inviting active involvement on the part of readers to identify the nature of the lion themselves. Then, at the end of each chapter, each numbered lion icon is listed with a detailed explanation of its negative characteristics. (These problematic behaviors or omissions are also referenced at the back of the book in two indexes, along with other lions not directly associated with the narrative that are similar in nature.)
The book's dual nature makes it both a compelling read and an instructive reference for organizations and individuals.
Hidden Lions thus becomes a "real life" study in the self-deception of leadership, both real and potential. The value of this book is that hidden lions retain their power only by remaining outside awareness. By exposing them, Brian escapes their destructive influence. Readers likewise can profit. Unlike Brian, they have the added advantage of taming their lions from the pages of a book rather than being blindsided by them in their work lives.
What separates Hidden Lions from previous books on leadership? The assumption of most writing in management and leadership and in most popular thinking is that humans are basically rational decision makers. They are not. A better term would be "reaction machines."
We not only deceive, we "double deceive." Confronted with an initial deception we have committed, we often will also deceive others and ourselves about the fact that we deceive. We truly believe we are not being deceitful. This double deception makes the system so watertight that it tends to evade detection even by psychologists. We identify at least 83 of these mental tricks of self-deception.
Brian's story operates on many levels: hands-on learning, mentoring, business challenges successfully met, the discovery of "hidden lions," a range of actual and potential self-deception, and a deeper ethic for work.
One of the book's distinctive threads throughout is the critical importance of mentoring. It proves essential to Brian's success. He seeks and finds mentors in every situation. Developing strong relationships, then, is key to becoming a seasoned, effective leader. All of Brian's work world experiences—and even his marriage problems—help him become a more effective leader that any corporation would want to hire.
While each of us has several hidden lions, there is usually a single faulty perception—a Lion King—that subverts good intentions. From the outset of the narrative, Brian hints about how he discovered his Lion King. Readers are invited to see if they can uncover it before Brian does in the narrative—thus adding to the intriguing nature of his journey.
Brian's actual behavioral profiles—four of them—are in the book's appendix for the reader to preview and discover what his core blind side might be. Thus the reader is invited and engaged to undertake one of several "safari" to discover both business lions or one's own hidden lions. Brian discovers that it is his marital relationship that helps him the most to uncover his Lion King, which began early in his life. At home he learns a deeper reason for the values he wishes to uphold at work (another thread throughout the book).
An entire range of business problems for organizations small and large is confronted in the story and the commentary. In addition, an overview of ways that leadership can be undermined is covered. Every behavioral system discussed is referenced in appendices for the reader, who may not otherwise have easy access to them.
The human side of leadership is demonstrated over and over. Missteps and potential missteps are everywhere. Besides demonstrating for the young manager a "hands on" true story, the book's analytical second voice brings typical blind side leadership behavior into awareness and conversation. The book can be used not only as an individual search for personal and organizational lions, but also as a catalyst for discussion groups.
No book on leadership today attempts to pull these perspectives together. As a result, Hidden Lions uniquely complements other books on management and leadership. Many of these books offer sound, rational approaches to leadership. The problem is that their theoretical soundness shatters in the real-world dissonance of irrational forces. By taming these irrational lions, the valuable approaches of these books can be practiced effectively.
Hidden Lions is conceived as a story and a resource useful to managers at any level, to those aspiring to leadership in organizations, and for courses in psychology and business aiming to understand behavior at work. Because the lions are not simply business lions but prevent effectiveness in any organization, the book has wide-ranging implications and usefulness.
Further, it is not limited to managers, leaders, and would-be leaders. Brian's story and the book's insights can be put to use by people seeking a more satisfying career at any level of an organization.