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Trust supporting two PhD Projects at Surrey Business School. (2014)

Daedalus Trust funding is helping two Surrey Business School students pursue research into important aspects of hubris.

The studentships are part of a drive led by Professor Eugene Sadler-Smith to make the school a recognised national and international centre for research into hubris in business and management.

Vita Akstinaite will be exploring the ‘Use of Linguistic Markers in the Identification and Analysis of CEOs’ Hubris. At the same time, Tim Wray will consider ‘Hubris, friend or foe? An examination of the adaptive and maladaptive manifestations of leaders’ hubris’.

Daedalus Trust’s funding will provide additional support for fieldwork and dissemination of the projects.

Use of Linguistic Markers

For her abstract, Vita writes: “it is firmly established that many psychological changes can be associated with distinctive patterns of spoken and written discourse. Such changes can be quantified using a range of analytical approaches (Ahmed et al, 2013).

“Consequently if language provides a source of valid and reliable data to analyse psychological change the features of hubris (e.g. excessive over-confidence) are likely to be reflected in language produced by those acquiring such behaviours, manifesting in a variety of linguistic features (Peters & Garrard, 2013).

“The research question is: what are the linguistic markers of CEO hubris and how may they be identified and understood?

“The project will aim to test the following hypotheses: (1) Linguistic utterances of hubristic business leaders will show reliable and consistent differences from those of non-hubristic business leaders; (2) trajectory of the occurrence of the linguistic markers of hubris will change during the course of a leaders’ tenure.”

Hubris, friend or foe?

Tim Wray’s abstract notes that “The linkage of hubris with negative outcomes has received increased attention recently.

“Executive hubris was culpable in the failure of banks (Brummer, 2009; Plum & Wilchins, 2008). Corporate hubris played a role in the BP Gulf of Mexico oil leak (Ladd, 2011).

“The traditional view of hubris is that it is dysfunctional and maladaptive, leading to individual/corporate failure (Hayward & Hambrick, 1997; Petit & Bollaert, 2011). However, a number of the features that characterise hubris (e.g. leaders’ self-confidence/high core self-evaluation associated with success) are of likely benefit to individuals and organisations. Hence hubris presents a potential conundrum having positive and negative attributes simultaneously. Balancing its ‘pros and cons’ is a fine line for individuals and organizations to tread.

“This research will challenge the assumption that hubris is always bad. Existing literature is overly concerned with its ‘dark side’ maladaptive features and negative consequences (Judge, et al., 2009). There is little research exploring situations where its expression might prove successful and adaptive. Interestingly parallel literature reveals narcissistic leadership to be considered by researchers to be exclusively ‘dark side’, however there are suggestions that under certain circumstances it can lead to positive outcomes.

“The aim of this research, whilst not denying hubris’ negative connotations, is to examine if and under what circumstances hubris offers adaptive potential and where the boundary lies.”

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