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Does Your Boss Suffer From Hubris Syndrome?

A little bit of power corrupts a little


My dictionary describes it as excessive pride.

In the latest issue of the Psychologist magazine there is an interview with David Owen on how power corrupts. He describes Hubris syndrome as an acquired personality change in people in positions of power. His article is about people who are in hlgh political office, but it got me thinking about middle managers and leaders in many everyday workplaces.

These are some of the symptoms of hubris syndrome:

A narcissistic propensity to see their world primarily as an arena in which to exercise power and seek glory.

A predisposition to take actions that seem likely to cast the person in a good light.

A tendency to speak in the third person.

Contempt for the advice or criticism of others.

Exposure to power seems to have detrimental effects, and it seems to me, a little touch of hubris syndrome characterises many middle managers who really ought to know better.

I’m not saying that they suffer the full blown syndrome but a touch of hubris in our leaders can be a problem. A little bit of power corrupts a little. It can lead to poor leadership where the organisation suffers. We need to think of ways in which we can help those entrusted to steer organizations to stay grounded, realistic and free from hubris.

Sadly, more often than not, there is not much one can do but find the amusing aspects of hubris in others. Perhaps if there is antidote to hubris it is laughter.

Share your experiences of hubris in your management team here:


Interview by Ian Bushnell with the Rt Hon Lord Owen (2014). Creon’s fatal flaw – when power corrupts. The Psychologist, vol 27, no 11, pp. 848-849.