A leadership warning conveyed in a single word
Hubris is a great sounding word, don’t you think?
Its meaning however is not that appealing. According to the dictionary hubris is:
Excessive pride or self-confidence.
For context, one example that the dictionary uses to explain it is “the self-assured hubris among economists was shaken in the late 1980s”.
Hubris is a Greek word, first recorded in 1884.
Hubris is a classical word, summed up by another word — danger. Especially for those who’ve experienced success. Hubris is also defined as “insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride.
This article will touch on a dimension of leadership that we need to be mindful of.
Hubris in Business
In the business world, Hubris can be lethal to the leader and followers, a threat to a common purpose — Social cancer.
The evidence is all around us.
You know what I’m talking about. Tabloids are awash with examples of times when hubris brings a leader to their knees:
- Billionaires jailed for social misbehaviour
- CEOs ousted by rebellious stakeholders
- Successful lives ruined by self-defeating behaviours
- National figures blighted by prejudices that make their way into a public forum
- Political, religious and labour leaders, pilloried for misappropriating finances and worse, people
- Celebrities who succumb to overindulgence, substance abuse
As followers, if we need to remind a leader of such painful, gory stories, we’re wasting our breath. These leaders are blind. Period.
Read the warning signs
Every type of hubris brings its own warnings.
Akin to an avalanche — unstoppable.
Individuals from the examples above were once in exalted positions, loved, praised, followed.
However, their self-fulfilling success drowned out early warning signs, up to the moment immediately before their downfall. Triggering an irreversible chain of events.
Courage to call out the illusion of delusion
This brings courage to the fore. If ever courage is called for, it's when followers observe misdirection or ethical transgression.
At these moments, followers must confront their supreme leader — their over-confident masters at the wheel, at the pinnacle of their career, but few do.
Followers are morally obliged to tell their leader when their million dollar yacht is about to run aground — Sink unless radical changes are in train.
Silence or ignorance is not a valid argument for either party. No court of law will accept this. Know this — silence is a form of participation.
Great leaders empower others to be courageous. The type of followers they need in their crew, the very people who will save them from disaster.
Followers are a leader's life raft in times of turmoil.
Courageous, ethical loyalty are traits beyond parallel in the world today, but rare. Yet these are very people who we need to lead us in the future.