In the spring of 2005, the American public was\n\ntreated to the spectacle of well muscled baseball players testifying in\n\nfront of a Congressional committee. Only one former player admitted to\n\nusing steroids. \n\nIn effect, these players took their cue from their commissioner, Bud\n\nSelig: He delivered testimony that essentially positioned him and the\n\nowners as blind, deaf and dumb to the issue of artificial performance\n\nenhancement that was enabling players to rewrite the record books. \n\nThe players\u2019 union was even more outrageous; labor leader Donald Fehr\n\nsaid that the issue of testing and subsequent punishment was strictly a\n\nmatter for collective bargaining, never mind that such substances\n\nnegatively affect health and welfare of players. \n\nThe performance of the commissioner, the union and the players was a\n\nclassic example of hubris, the total disregard for what others think\n\nand belief that you are held unaccountable for your actions.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n Guilty as Charged\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nHubris is not reserved for baseball. It just seems to find itself\n\nin the crosshairs more often. Politicians are notable practitioners;\n\nmany posture relentlessly, pretending to take the high road when the\n\nlow road is where they actually travel. Business leaders are equally\n\nguilty. When a product launch fails, a marketing campaign sputters or a\n\npolicy goes down in flames, they cross their arms over their\n\nmetaphorical chests and refuse to budge. Michael Eisner took hubris to\n\nthe nth degree when he refused to relinquish his CEO role in the face\n\nof a shareholder revolt. True he surrendered the chairmanship, but he\n\nremained in charge. Does this mean that politicians, coaches and\n\nbusinesspeople must kow tow to public opinion? No, but as purported\n\nleaders they need to listen to criticism.\n\nHubris is a human failing. The Greeks originated the word and\n\nGreek playwrights made liberal use of it in their tragedies. Most of us\n\nmortals are guilty of it. And to deny that guilt is an act of hubris in\n\nitself. Hubris is a divisive act. When leaders make mistakes they fail\n\nto acknowledge yet punish others for similar failing, they are guilty\n\nof the \u201csuperiority complex." That is, the rules do not apply to me. \n\nSuch highhandedness undermines the moral fabric of an organization.\n\nTherefore, we must acknowledge hubris and guard against it. Managers,\n\nespecially those who have been modeling themselves on CEO types who are\n\nguilty of hubris, are particularly vulnerable. Projecting hubris is a\n\nsure way to turn off your people, and in the process fail to meet your\n\nobjectives. And when that happens, you may find yourself looking for\n\nanother form of employment. The unemployment lines may be the last\n\nrefuge of those who took hubris one step too far. So here are some\n\nthings to focus on.\n\nOpen the door. Managers who fall prey to hubris are often\n\nthose who are isolated. They manage from behind a desk or from behind\n\nclosed doors. Often this is a learned behavior. Their bosses did it to\n\nthem so they do not really try to break the model. As a result they\n\nrule like martinets: My rule or no rule. Hubris, yes, but also self\n\ndefeating. They become prisoners of their own capabilities. They do not\n\ninvite others to share the responsibilities. And so when things get\n\ntough, they act more and more defiant. Not only do they hurt\n\nthemselves; they hurt their ability to achieve results.\n\nLook for alternatives. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger\n\ncame to governorship of California as the alternative candidate. As an\n\nactor, he utilizes his movie star appeal to win over the opposition. He\n\ninvites people from outside of government to contribute ideas to\n\nCalifornia\u2019s many crises. At the same time, he has stood down opposing\n\nDemocrats by appealing directly to the people. He demonstrates that he\n\nhas an open mind on some issues and is willing to listen. As a result,\n\nin his first year of office, California regained some of its\n\nequilibrium and the \u201cGovernator\u201d maintained public support. Managers\n\nwho are willing to look to people with differing viewpoints as\n\nresources rather than enemies have a better chance of getting things\n\ndone faster, better, and even more imaginatively.\n\nBe humble. Lately politics have caught up with\n\nSchwarzenegger. His charm is wearing thin and the people want results,\n\nwhich, given California\u2019s dire state budget constraints, will be tough\n\nin coming. A little humility might be in order. In this matter, the\n\nexample of a previous California governor, Ronald Reagan, might be in\n\norder. Reagan had enough self confidence in himself honed by his years\n\nas an actor and union leader to learn to work with the opposition as\n\ngovernor and as president. No leader has all the answers, nor should he\n\npretend to. Humility invites people to your side. They want to help\n\nyou, something every manager from CEO to night shift supervisor needs.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n Getting Past the Emotions\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe emotion that underscores hubris is pride. And there is nothing\n\nwrong with demonstrating pride when it is appropriate. For example,\n\nwhen you achieve a team goal, go ahead and stick out your chest, let\n\nout a roar. If you bring a project in on time and under budget, beat\n\nyour chest. And if you reduce defects to an undetectable level, jump up\n\nand down throw your fist into the air. You deserve to be proud, and\n\neven brag a bit. That\u2019s also very human. As well as very nurturing to\n\nthe human spirit.\n\nDefiance is another by product of hubris.\n\nWhen you know you have made the best decision you can, and you are\n\nsupported by the facts as well as some of your people, it is rightful\n\nto stand up and defy the odds. The history of business is a case study\n\nof entrepreneurs who defied the odds: from Edison to Gates and Jobs to\n\nDell, no one made it easy on them and they succeeded. However, if their\n\nentrepreneurial zeal goes so far that they believe only in themselves\n\nand no one else, hubris dominates. And problems occur. Each one of\n\nthese folks suffered a comeuppance or two but they were able to push\n\npast it. In part by acknowledging other points of view.\n\nToo much defiance, egged on by too much pride, leads into the trap\n\nof hubris. The sad part of hubris is that you do more than hurt your\n\nability to lead. You handcuff the abilities of your people. You chain\n\nthem to your ego and so they have no alternative but to follow your\n\nlead, even if you may be leading them down a dark path. \n\nSome of the white collar criminals who found themselves doing time did\n\nso because of this trap \u2013 hubris and following the wrong example at the\n\nwrong time. All hubris does not lead to jail but it can lead to\n\nnegative consequences \u2013 missed deadlines, failed projects, and\n\ndisenchanted and disengaged employees. \n\nWhen then happens, trust melts away and results evaporate. It is a\n\nfailure of leadership that might have been avoided if only the leader\n\nhas listened more or been less bull headed. But then again that\u2019s\n\nhubris!