Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, differentiated Professor that Leadership breakthrough and Organisational Change| July 1, 2019

Leaders always need to save hubris in check.

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David was very gratified as soon as he was named businessman that the year. That felt he deserved the recognition. Many posts had illustrated him as an businessman who had actually reframed his industry, which provided him the courage to do his boldest move yet: acquisition over his largest competitor. Some analysts had stated that that paid far too lot for the company. Then bankers became nervous and also soon reporters joined in. One wrote: “Not only was his recent takeover a mistake, yet his limitless side ventures – to buy an upscale restaurant in London, sponsoring a soccer club, jae won a exclusive clinic – are too good a drain on the this firm resources.” The damages was done. David would remain famous for sinking his own agency and costing thousands of world their livelihoods.

In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father, Daedalus, were imprisoned on an island by King Minos. To escape, Daedalus – a master craftsman – produced two set of wings made of wax and also feathers. That warned his boy not come fly also close to the sun, together the wax would melt. He also cautioned Icarus not to fly too low, together the feathers might get wet in the sea. His warnings, however, go unheeded. Icarus to be so intoxicated through the endure of flight that that went greater and higher. As the wax in his wings melted, that tumbled right into the sea and drowned. The speak “don"t fly too close come the sun” is a recommendation to Icarus’ recklessness and also defiance that limitations.

In organisations, the Icarus syndrome characterises leaders who initiate overly ambitious projects that come to naught, causing harm to themselves and others in the process. Fuelled by excitement, these leaders are unable to rein in your misguided enthusiasm prior to it is too late. Often, these leaders have actually let adulation walk to their heads. They display symptoms such as:

Placing extreme confidence in their very own judgmentHarbouring feel of omnipotenceBecoming reckless and restlessDisplaying contempt because that the advice and criticism the othersIgnoring the practicality, cost or damaging consequences of their various endeavours.

Flying the this firm jet also close come the sun

The Icarus syndrome, with its signature lack of humility, is a pattern the every leader demands to be pertained to about. It has felled countless leaders that planned grandly however failed miserably by overestimating your, foresight and ability.

Mythology, folktales and also even Biblical story are full of warnings versus excessive pride, in various other words hubris. In literature, the numbers of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Satan in john Milton’s Paradise Lost highlight the dark themes the vanity, ambition, power, insolence and disdain.

We likewise see the Icarus syndrome among contemporary political and business leaders. Prime examples are Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the Crown Prince the Saudi Arabia, Carlos Ghosn, the newly deposed CEO of the Renault-Nissan alliance, and Mark Zuckerberg, the chairman and CEO that Facebook. The imperiousness of MBS has significantly damaged his management brand and the picture of his country. In the case of Ghosn, the stands accused of significant acts that misconduct, including the an individual use of this firm assets and also under-reporting his compensation. The decision on Zuckerberg has actually not been reached, yet his recent troubles additionally illustrate the there space clear borders to feeling omnipotent.

If leader afflicted by the Icarus syndrome only sowed the seed of their very own downfall, it would be tragic enough. However they frequently put their entire organisation at risk. Leaders that make all their decisions without ever before consulting rather invariably make grave mistakes, generating that company collateral damage.

As the subordinates of together leaders realise that any kind of disagreements through the boss only triggers contempt, the culture becomes one where negative news is taboo. Furthermore, hubristic leaders tend to disregard firm values and also policies, reasoning these don’t apply to them. The continuous overstepping the boundaries demoralise and disempower your teams, i beg your pardon may add to psychological disengagement, make it an ext likely that the ideal employees will certainly leave.

Counter-measures and also solutions

Diversity is amongst the assorted counter-measures that have the right to prevent the Icarus syndrome. A varied leadership team can be an antidote to groupthink. Although monitoring teams with backgrounds and perspectives in common make faster decisions, new data is more likely to it is in ignored and choices worthy of consideration may it is in overlooked. However, for diversity to work, people must be ready to tell their leader uncomfortable truths, without are afraid of reprisal.

Considering the really nature that the problem, leaders suffering from a full-fledged situation of the Icarus syndrome room unlikely come seek psychological help. What might encourage lock to perform so, however, space the repercussions of your narcissism, such together depression, problem abuse or related household difficulties. Narcissistically oriented personality disorders room deep-rooted and challenging to deal with, but coaching might help.

Lastly, boards of directors have a duty to play. By definition, in the exclusive sector, non-executive directors (NEDs) are an alleged to administer a countervailing power. When confronted with a CEO showing at an early stage signs that the Icarus syndrome, these independent director should attend to the issue and suggest some type of mentoring or a coaching intervention.

In the people of that company governance, it often takes a dramatic revolve of events for feasible watchdogs come take any steps to neutralise the situation. Usually, action is just taken when things have already gone as well far.

When leaders have floated too lengthy in a gilded bubble, untethered native reality, it becomes difficult for lock to check out their very own affliction. The reality is that it take away very little to erode a leader’s position of strength. Over there is a truism in the credo that only the paranoid survive. Leader would do well to take nothing because that granted and to do every little thing it take away to avoid the fate that Icarus.

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries is the distinguished Clinical Professor that Leadership breakthrough & Organisational change at and the Raoul de Vitry d"Avaucourt Chaired Professor of management Development, Emeritus. He is the founder the"s Global management Centre and the Programme manager of The an obstacle of Leadership, among’s optimal Executive education and learning programmes.

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Professor Kets de Vries"s most recent publications are: Down the hare Hole the Leadership: management Pathology of daily Life; You Will accomplish a Tall, Dark Stranger: executive, management Coaching ChallengesTelling Fairy story in the Boardroom: how to Make sure Your Organisation resides Happily ever After; and Riding the management Rollercoaster: one Observer’s Guide.