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About Hubris

How power corrupts

From the Iraq war that de-stabilised the entire Middle East, to the collapses at RBS and Lehman Brothers sparking the global financial crisis, to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; in organisations of every type and size around the world, one factor may be at the heart of many disastrous outcomes – Hubris Syndrome.

Power corrupts as the saying goes, and out-of-control egos, high risk and reckless decision-making, arrogance and contempt for others could suggest leaders in the grip of what we call ‘Hubris Syndrome’. It has the capacity to destroy economic value, ruin careers, subvert great ideas and institutions and take lives in unnecessary wars and accidents that could have been anticipated.

What is Hubris Syndrome?

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Hubris Syndrome is the presence in someone in a position of power of three or four of the 14 “excruciatingly unflattering”* symptoms summarised below:

Individually, these are mostly narcissistic or hubristic behaviours, each potentially risky enough in their own right. But if several of them are being demonstrated by someone in an organisation you care about, something far more dangerous is at play: Hubris Syndrome.

* Rachel Salvidge,

** ‘Hubris Syndrome: An acquired personality disorder? ‘A study of US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers over the last 100 years’, David Owen and Jonathan Davidson, Brain 2009: 132; 1396-1406

Photo credits:
Fred Goodwin – Photo by Camera Press/REX
Margaret Thatcher – Photo by I.T.N./REX
Deepwater – Photo by KPA/Zuma/REX