Peacock Stretching His Feathers

Beware the hubris hazard

Know any of these?

Written by Dr. Shaun Ridley FAIM
2 minute read
Peacock Stretching His Feathers

“Hubris  –  an  extreme  and  unreasonable  feeling  of  pride  and confidence in yourself” (Cambridge English Dictionary).

Arguably one of the most career limiting and damaging characteristics of a leader is hubris. Despite this, hubris is surprisingly common amongst leaders of all ages.

Some related words offered by the Cambridge Dictionary highlight the potential for this behaviour to derail your career – egocentric, arrogant, narcissistic and vain. It is hard to imagine anyone wanting to be described in these words.

To be so self- absorbed as to be blind to these behaviours will also suggest you are blind to other things as well, such as the merits of the ideas of other people, a person in need, the success of a competitor or a relationship that is breaking down.

Almost by definition, if hubris is present, we can’t imagine we are the guilty party.

Over-confidence convinces us we would see it coming and would make changes to avoid this undesirable characteristic. We assume this failing only happens to others.

One potential remedy for spotting this characteristic is simply to be open to the possibility that it is within us.

Watching, listening and reflecting on our words and behaviours will help us identify the early warning signs. 

A trusted friend might also offer some insight into a mismatch between what was said and what was received.

Similarly, ask yourself, “How might this behaviour be perceived by others?”

This is a very difficult question for someone caught in the hubris mindset. It is much easier for someone who is a little more humble, is hungry for alternative views and respects the opinions of others.

If you need any motivation to guard against hubris, just observe the negative reaction of your colleagues when faced with an over-confident, arrogant sales person.

Your manager reacts the same way when considering you for the next big assignment. Your future is much brighter if you can model a more humble personality.

One more small step in the next 24 hours

Start by observing hubris in others, whether it is the loud heavyweight boxer bragging in the face of his next opponent or a pushy sales representative from your stationery supplier.

What words, tone or non-verbals do you find particularly offensive?

Now take a moment to reflect on your own behaviour.

What do you do that could be seen in a similar vein? Even if your intent is not to show-off, consider how your words or actions could be seen by others.

Ask yourself

What impact could this action have on your leadership success?

How likely is it you could implement this action successfully?