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Anti-hubris toolkit taking shape at Surrey

A practical ‘anti-hubris toolkit’ is taking shape in the UK at Surrey Business School’s Business Insights Lab.

It’s an initiative founded on the belief that while academic research into the nature and origins of hubristic leadership in business is important, there’s an urgent need to develop anti-hubris tools “so that the phenomenon might be anticipated, identified and mitigated in advance of any crises it might precipitate.”

The school ran a half-day event on 18 May 2016 called ‘Managing and Mitigating Hubris’ with the aim of laying the foundations for a practical Anti-Hubris Toolkit.

Organizer Professor Eugene Sadler-Smith reports that proceedings were kick-started with “an enormously forthright and insightful discussion on the subject of leadership and hubris by Equitable Life CEO Chris Wiscarson”

“Amongst many astute observations Mr Wiscarson suggested that commentators on leadership hubris have tended to concentrate upon the roles of individuals, who they cast as ‘villains’. However they bypass the role of boards and independent, non-executive directors who should, he said, provide counterbalances to the risk of their CEOs going off the rails.”

This talk provided a stimulus for a discussions by several groups, aimed at generating long-lists of outline specifications for potential tools that might form the contents of an Anti-Hubris Toolkit.

These discussions were shortlised into four potential tools to help anticipate, diagnose and mitigate the development of hubris at senior levels in business organisations.

One example proposed using ‘stories from the shop floor upwards’ as a way to illuminate data gained in more traditional ways eg. attitude surveys, to identify signs of incipient hubris at senior levels.

“Needless  to say, a final toolkit design was not achieved in a single day.

“Next steps will include further refinements of the ideas developed for the Anti-Hubris Toolkit, together with a commitment from participants to take these forward as mini projects to develop practical resources that may be implemented as a defence against the potentially enormous damage that can result from when business leaders succumb to the intoxicating effects of power.”

The next step in the design process will take place on 13 July 13.00-17.00 at Surrey Business School.

Potential participants are urged to email Professor Sadler-Smith as soon as possible:

A summary of the Managing and Mitigating Hubris Workshop is available to download here: Managing Mitigating Hubris Interim Outputs


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