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Talk will explore hubris in leaders – the disease and its antidote


At the business briefing on 1 July Cambridge Judge Business School’s Dean Christoph Loch will explore the evolutionary roots of hubris.

Leadership and HubrisYou don’t have to search too hard in the last few days to find examples of hubris in public life – the names Coulson and Suarez alone conjure an image of excessive pride run amok.

But how does it happen that normal, intelligent people can fall foul of the distortions of thinking and changes in personality that define hubris – and that may ultimately destroy them or their careers? A talk on Leadership and Hubris by the Dean of the University of Cambridge Judge Business School in London next Tuesday (1 July) aims to get to the evolutionary and societal roots of the problem.

Nearly a year on from a groundbreaking conference on the subject, hosted by Cambridge Judge and the Daedalus Trust, which heard from speakers like Sir David Owen, Sir Martin Taylor and Manfred Kets de Vries, Professor Christoph Loch will revisit the issue. Taking his audience of business leaders through the evolutionary roots of hubris, he will explore its effects on leadership performance – effects that have, in recent years contributed to a pervasive loss of trust in leaders across all spheres.

Professor Loch will also look at practical ways to deal with the condition, and consider how to equip leaders of the future with the tools to recognize and manage it in themselves and others. He said:

It’s important to recognise that hubristic tendencies are part of the human condition and are not limited to a certain type of person. Given the right circumstances – overweening power, no-one to tell us the truth or a refusal to listen, a low level of self-awareness – we can all become victims of hubris. Self-confidence is crucial for the ability to make decisions, but gone too far, it can destroy effectiveness.”

“The good news is that hubris is not inevitable or incurable in anyone, no matter how powerful. By learning the discipline of self-awareness, and continuing to cultivate it throughout our careers, we can keep it at bay. Being self-aware is a strong element of successful self-efficacy and something that we all, and leaders especially, need to work on throughout our lives if we want to avoid sliding into the abyss of hubris – with poor outcomes for ourselves and those around us.

An expert in innovation, Professor Loch’s research interests include cultural evolution, cultural habits and the motivation of people in business. Dean of Cambridge Judge since 2011, he was formerly Professor at INSEAD.

The Leadership and Hubris talk will be held at the offices of Allen and Overy, One Bishops Square, London, on Tuesday 1 July, 18:30-20:30.

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Visit Christoph Loch’s faculty webpage