Hubristic leadership: Understanding the causes and mitigating the effects - November 29th 2017


Seminar to the Maudsley Philosophy Group, November 29th 2017
Dr Graham Robinson and Professor Eugene Sadler-Smith
Surrey Business School, University of Surrey

Hubris is a dangerous cocktail of over-confidence, over-ambition, arrogance and pride which may be fuelled by the acquisition of significant power and the achievement of prior success. When allied to contempt for the advice and criticism of others hubris may cause leaders to over-reach themselves significantly. As a result, hubristic leaders take high-risk and reckless decisions that can result in harmful, sometimes catastrophic, consequences for themselves, organizations, institutions, and wider society (Owen, 2006, 2012; Picone, Dagnino and Mina, 2014; Robinson, 2016; Sadler-Smith, 2016). In this seminar we aim to do three things: (1) review and critically appraise the neurological/psychiatric perspective on hubris (Owen and Davidson, 2009); (2) on the basis that understanding the ‘pathology’ of the individual hubristic leader is necessary but insufficient, we frame hubristic leadership as a form of destructive leadership ((Einarsen et al., 2007) within a broader nexus of hubristic leader, susceptible followers and conducive environment (Padilla, et al, 2007); (3) discuss some possible measures that might be taken to alleviate the risks and hazards associated with hubristic leadership in business organizations.