Hubris: The Effect It Has On Organisations And People

Hubris: The Effect It Has On Organisations And People

Dennis Toursh
The OR Podcast

Hubris is frequently forwarded as an explanation for many forms of organisational failure. Hubris is a form of  overconfidence or extreme and inordinate self-confidence, over-optimism, excessive self-esteem, pride as well as arrogance.

Hubris as an explanation for organisational failure

Studies have found that recourse to hubris as an explanation for organisational failure, particularly in industries like the financial services, the political arena et cetera, has become so common that it is now the full-back explanation for just about every form of organisational failure.

Symptoms of Hubris

A 2009 study looking at whether hubris is an acquired personality disorder by analysing the last hundred years of US presidents in UK prime ministers defined 14 symptoms of what they termed hubris symptoms and mapping them against the American psychiatric association’s DSM or Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (DSM five):

  1. A narcissistic propensity to see their world as an arena in which to exercise power and seek glory
  2. Predisposition to take actions which are primarily designed to cast the individual in a good light and enhance their image
  3. A disproportional concern with image and presentation
  4. A mass ionic manner of talking about current activities and a tendency towards exhortation
  5. An identification with the nation or the organisation to the extent that the individual regards their perspective and interests and the countries or organisations as identical
  6. Attendances to speak in the third person news the royal ‘we’
  7. Excessive confidence in the individual’s own judgements and contempt for the advice or criticism of others
  8. Exaggerated self-belief bordering on a sense of omnipotence in what they personally can achieve
  9. Belief that rather than being accountable to the mundane court colleagues or public opinion court which the answer is history or god
  10. An unshakeable belief that in that court they and their actions will be vindicated
  11. A loss of contact with reality, often associated with progressive isolation
  12. Restless, recklessness and impulsiveness
  13. A tendency to allow their broad vision about the moral rectitude of a proposed course, to obviate the need to consider the quality, cost or outcomes
  14. Hubristic incompetence, where things go wrong because too much self-confidence has led the leader not to worry about the nuts and bolts of the policy

A new study

A new thematic analysis by Professor Dennis Tourish from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom has looked at unifying all the current research around hubris to see what can be learnt about its symptoms, behaviours and outcomes.

Here Professor Tourish talks about his study.



Get more

Professor Tourish

Professor Dennis Tourish is a Professor of Leadership and Organisation Studies at the University of Sussex.

He is the editor of the journal Leadership. Among his research interests are the dark side of leadership; leadership and organisational effectiveness; hubris in leadership; research misconduct; and, influence processes within organisations that can be described as cults.. He has co-written or co-edited eight books, including ‘Management Studies in Crisis: Fraud, Deception and Meaningless Research’, published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. He has published over seventy peer reviewed journal articles on these topics. Dennis has also contributed a chapter on ‘Leadership and cults’ to the SAGE Handbook of Leadership (2011).

Dennis Toursh


– Okay, welcome back. And today we’re talking to Dennis Tourish, who works at the University of Sussex. And he’s produced a very interesting paper around hubris, entitled Towards An Organizational Theory of Hubris: Symptoms, Behaviors and Social Fears Within Finance and Banking. So welcome, Dennis, to the review. And I was just wondering if you can start off just by telling us a little bit about yourself, your background, research history and interests.

– Well, I originally come from Northern Ireland, which helps to explain my interest in hubris and dysfunctional leadership in general, because historically, we’ve had a lot of it in that part of the world. Currently, I’m a professor of leadership and organization studies at the University of Sussex Business School. I’ve also had a longstanding research interest in dysfunctional organizations that we might describe as cults, such as the Scientologists, the Moonies and various other such organizations, where we also see many examples of narcissism and hubris in existence. So all of that fueled my interest in this particular topic.

– Brilliant. Okay. Fantastic. So, and, and you recently published the paper towards organizational theory of hubris. Do you just want to give us an overview of what led to this particular piece of research? Kind of, why did you do it?

– Well, my particular focus in this paper is on the banking and finance sector, and it a draws on 27 interviews that I conducted with people who worked at different levels within those sectors and critics, some senior managers and several former CEOs, and the like. So, the starting point for this for me was the realization that dysfunctional management and leadership have played a big part in the 2008 financial crisis, but I couldn’t help notice that most management research journals have said very little about the events of that time. And to this day, I think that the Major Academy of Management Journals still haven’t published anything that tries to look at this from a management perspective. It seemed to me that it would be sensible to do so. And see if we could identify anything in terms of dysfunctional leadership behaviors that might just have had something to do with that chronic collapse, the effects of which we were still living with.

– Yes, yes, definitely. And I’ve come across more than that in my own career. So can you just explain a little bit about what hubris is, how it’s defined and something of the problems faced whilst researching this, the concept of hubris?

– Well, one of the problems with it is that the term is now used fairly indiscriminately to describe any kind of bad leader that we encounter. So it has oftentimes been used just as an indiscriminate term of abuse for a perceived failure. Looking at it more precisely, I think hubris is first of all, to some extent, grotesque over-self-confidence on the part of a designated leader. We need a certain amount of confidence. We sometimes even need some overconfidence, but I’m talking here about a highly exaggerated version of it combined with the feeling of, in a way, personal indispensability, a feeling that the world revolves around this particular individual that they don’t need much in the way of critical feedback from other individuals, because the quality of their own decisions is so high. So that also leads to a feeling of being indispensable, on their part, for the future of the organization. Or, if they’re a politician suffering from hubris, indispensable for the future salvation of the country that they are in charge of. Those are some of its main distinguishing characteristics, I think.

– Yes. And, and this idea that, that, that they have that their, their answers and their decisions are the right ones and everybody else just doesn’t understand.

– Yes. So, therefore, hubristic leaders tend to go a lot by instinct, gut instinct, if you like. Evidence doesn’t matter so much because by definition, they’re some kind of a genius who can intuit the correct way forward. So the more a person becomes a hubristic leader, the more they discard evidence that dis-confirms the ideas they have about what should be done. But, in some circumstances, people like that, maybe can make a correct decision. That’s also the case that with real critical feedback into the decision-making process, they become more likely to make very bad decisions. So we know, for example, from research, that leaders who are business leaders, that is, who suffer from hubris, they’re inclined to think to do things like exaggerate the benefits that will be attained through things like conducting mergers and acquisitions of different organizations. They minimize the possibility of a particular business venture failing. They turn a blind eye to defects and deficiencies and whatever the product is, that they are serving. Thereby refusing to make improvements in it when the time still remains for, for that to be done. One of the best examples in banking and finance, of course, is Sir Fred Goodwin who ran the Royal Bank of Scotland and turned it into the biggest bankruptcy in UK corporate history. So convinced was Goodwin and his colleagues of their genius, that they engaged in the biggest bank acquisition in history when they acquired a Dutch-owned bank, ABN AMRO. And so confident were they, that they only conducted what they called due diligence light. In other words, they didn’t really do it at all. And I often suggest that this is a bit like you or I deciding to marry somebody based on their dating profile on an internet dating website, rather than actually taking the trouble to get to know them. But that would be an example of the grotesque overconfidence that we see in the business world. And since we’re talking just after last night’s first presidential debate in America, when Biden and Trump clashed, it’s absolutely impossible to avoid noticing that people like Donald Trump suffer from precisely what we’re talking about in a very, I agree, bad form.

– Yeah. So there’s a, there’s also a huge slice as part of the hubris of confirmation bias. Where they’re very selective in what they’re choosing as being a success and, and that they actually believe that.

– Yeah, I think that’s part of the problem. And a hubristic leader will take swim in it. They’ll be so convinced of their genius that they will discourage anybody really telling them the truth and they will criticize anybody attempting to do so. So over a period of time, they become like a rock star with the psychophantic entourage. They begin to believe their own publicity, their own PR, their own propaganda. They perhaps persuade themselves, that they are this person of unapproachable, unimpeachable genius. Of course, the truth very often is that they aren’t, they simply bludgeon and intimidate people around them into silence. That’s never a good formula for success in business, politics, or for that matter, in life.

– Yeah, and also because they’re a leader, they’re able to choose who’s going to be around them. And they’re able to get rid of the people who are critical thinkers, people who are using evidence and people who may be actually giving them good feedback. They’re going to get rid of those kinds of people because it doesn’t fit into their schema.

– Yeah. Precisely. And of course, people around them very quickly come to understand this. So they engage in the practice of what we call ingratiation, or if you like, flattery, where the exaggerate how much they agree with the person who is in the leadership role. They understate the extent to which they disagree with them. And this cacophony of voices, always agreeing with the leader, of course, convinces the leader even more than what they set out to do in the first place is absolutely correct. So what looks like madness to an outsider, comes to the leader to look like a view of normality. And for example, when I was doing my research in banking and finance, many of the interviewees told me horror stories about big impending business decisions, the bank said we had, for example, to acquire another bank that everybody in the organization knew would be a disaster, but anybody who tried to suggest that to the leader was dismissed, belittled, ridiculed, and eventually those voices fell silent, thereby ensuring that bad business decisions became, in many cases, a matter of routine.

– Yes. And again, going back to the example of Donald Trump, I remember that there was an excruciating television kind of interview where they had all of his lieutenants around the table, all praising him. And I don’t know whether you remember that, and…

– I do remember that. And of course, Trump often insists that, for example, he knows more about the COVID crisis than the doctors who are advising him. He knows more about military strategy than the top generals who are experts in military policy and have been steeped in it for many decades. After all, let us not forget that he called himself a very stable genius, and only a person who is not a genius, would ever imagine that they are a very stable genius, I would argue. Now, Trump was obviously an extreme example, but I do think that in the world of business as well, we have many, many examples of people who fall into those kinds of behaviors.

– Yes. I think we do. And in all of types of organizations and not just within the banking sector. And, and I, I, I think it comes out in a number of different ways. One of the things that I picked up in your study that, that did surprise me, largely, because I hadn’t actually thought about it, was that you were, you were all so able to discern some of the positive effects of hubris, which I wasn’t expecting. Can you just talk us through that a little bit?

– Well, it depends partly on how we define hubris. If we’re simply thinking about it in terms of overconfidence, then there are clearly circumstances in which, tempered by some kind of realism, but nevertheless there, some form of, of, of confidence in the ultimate goal is desirable or possible. I often think that nobody wins a Wimbledon tournament by going into the finals, thinking to themselves, well, this isn’t really my day today and the other guy’s looking too good and I think I’ll face defeat. And if we think back to the role that people like Winston Churchill played in the first… in the second world war, where he was adamant that on the one hand, we faced very severe challenges, but on the other, he was absolutely confident of a victory, even whenever it didn’t look like it, like it might be possible. So there are circumstances under which that kind of overconfident attitude pays dividends and is required. But I think the problem is, that when it becomes an indiscriminate reflex of optimism under all conditions, and in spite of all evidence to the contrary, and in spite of all feedback to the contrary, in spite of multiple setbacks, then we have a problem. So for example, one of the things that led to… Hitler’s downfall in the war was that he wouldn’t countenance a retreat on the part of his troops under any circumstances, let alone any of the ever surrendering. That was a of hubris in a way, because the feedback and the evidence that the existing strategy wasn’t working, were simply discarded. So, it’s a very cautious acknowledgement that there might occasionally be some positives to this. The problem is, when it becomes overwhelming, when the person doing it gets carried away, when the brutal facts of reality that all organizations eventually have to confront, when, when that is denied. So, another example of that, to be honest, might be the Brexit saga that we’re undergoing at the moment where there is very little acknowledgement from Boris Johnson, his advisors, that there might be some problems come January and where Johnson has even asserted, in the face of all the evidence, all the evidence, that even a new deal outcome in January would be quote “a good outcome.” Well, that won’t be a good outcome. No expert believes that it will be a good outcome. And that’s an example of overoptimism, overconfidence being used as a screen for denying the reality of what’s in front of us and in actual fact, denying the evidence that bad news might be on the horizon.

– Yes. In fact, this ties in very closely with another paper that was published this year around the difference between optimists and pessimists and who have the most healthy outcomes. And a lot of people assume that optimists have better, healthier outcomes. And in fact, they don’t. Particularly people who are overoptimistic, because eventually, they come face to face with reality. And that has, from a psychological point of view and a mental health point of view, has an impact. Which, which is interesting. So, just to kind of move on a little bit, you found that there are five behaviors associated with hubris in your study. Could you just talk us through these?

– Yes. Well, I… interviewed these 27 people. I asked them to identify what I called critical incidents, or stories, that in their experience, demonstrated the existence of hubris. The first one that came across over and over again, was a combination of overconfidence and over-persistence. So we talked a minute ago about overconfidence maybe being sometimes necessary. But the other side of that, that these stories demonstrated was over-persistence and failed courses of action. Everybody could see that action A wasn’t working, hadn’t worked, never would work, but the hubristic leader refused to accept this and kept on proceeding with that. The second behavior closely associated with this was what I have described as the behavior of recklessness. That because something theoretically might confer an advantage to the leader, for example, they might gain some sense of glory from successfully carrying out an acquisition. Then they would pursue that line of action again, in spite of all the evidence that it might not actually be working, and they will create an internal culture of fear where people would be reluctant to actually show that. The third behavior was what I described as self-insulated, self-interested behaviors, combined with an insulation from reality. Now, self-interested behavior is the accumulation of perks, privileges, beyond all sense of reason. I talked to one senior manager who described for instance, how the CEO of his bank built a replica of a Starbucks coffee shop in the corner of his office, because he was a great fan of Starbucks coffee and where, when he was served the coffee, the cup with the logo on it had to be turned to him so that he can see the logo at all times. Insulation from reality. I talked to a female middle manager who gives this example of it. She met her then-female CEO at the checkout teller at a Marks and Spencers shop, said “hello, how nice to see you,” passed the time of day. And the following day, was reprimanded by her line manager for daring to speak to the CEO in public. That kind of insulation from reality comes across very strongly. Fourth behavior was contempt for critical feedback. Anybody who suggested that something was wrong, you don’t know what you’re talking about, poo-pooed, get out of here, I’m not interested in hearing your views. And several people give examples of individuals in that position who actually lost their job. The fifth behavior that came across very strongly was abusive behavior. Again, particularly directed at anybody who was making critical commentary. But a general feature of their behavior, and a one particularly illustrative example, was of a senior manager, who was actually an HR director in this bank, who went to see another senior manager with a colleague. The colleague was there to tell the senior manager that something he wanted to do couldn’t happen, that it wasn’t possible. Well, this led to a mouthful of abuse from the manager in question. “You effing little stupid, see who would want to do it my way” and so on and so forth. And eventually he actually picked up a baseball bat that was in his room and began to wield it in a threatening manner. What he didn’t know was that the guy he was threatening had been a very well, a very expert amateur boxer, and he just stopped him and said, “look, if you lay a finger on me, I will put you in hospital,” where he finally put down in the bat, and said, “Oh, I was just joking. I didn’t mean anything bad,” all of that kind of stuff. So then I went to see the unseen. All of the bank were complaining, thinking this guy would be sacked. In fact, he eventually became the bank’s CEO himself, before a number of events led to his removal. But that type of behavior is intolerable in anybody. And in particular, when you’re a senior person yourself, that’s even more intolerable. And I think it’s characteristic of hubris because it means that you assume you have more rights, privileges than anybody else, that behaviors that other people, that would be intolerable in other people, suddenly become okay with you, as well. I mean, again, look at the the debate last night between Trump and Biden and the disgraceful way in which Donald Trump broke all the rules that he himself had agreed to, talked over his opponent, wouldn’t let even the moderator finish a sentence. That’s borderline abusive behavior, if not outright abusive behavior and it would be an example of the type of thing that I’m talking about.

– Yeah. It’s abuse of power, certainly. And it’s, it’s, it’s relying on the power that they have to be able to do those actions. And it’s not uncommon in a lot of organizations. And certainly in the banking sector, I’ve seen it a fair bit.

– But not only in the banking sector. I have been studying recently an American organization called Theranos. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It was a biotech company that went bankrupt in late 2018. Its founder and CEO was a young woman called Elizabeth Holmes, who is now facing trial for fraud in March next year. She had people like Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, another former secretary of state, on her board. But it’s absolutely clear that she suffered from enormous hubris and a culture was created inside that organization that one can only describe as the brute intimidation of all employees, where people were under intense surveillance all the time. Anybody suspected of dissent was followed by private investigators hired by the organization concerned. Some of the best known lawyers in the country were hired by it, expressly to intimidate individuals, and so on. So, ultimately that led to the organization’s collapse, of course. But, it’s indicative of a… a business environment that has become acceptable in some circles and one which I think we need to struggle against.

– Yes, definitely. Certainly, listening to the stories that you’re telling here. You know, there’s… certainly from a psychological point of view, there’s a big control issue where the individuals are trying to control everything around them and, and the views of people around them, to comply with the way that they see the world.

– Absolutely. And that’s associated with a spurt of grandiosity. “I am the organization. Only I can make America great again or steer this organization” or whatever. So going back to my example of Elizabeth Holmes from Theranos. When they moved into it, and you had porters at one point, she had her office redesigned to look like the oval office and the glass windows on it were made of bulletproof glass, for example. So that grandiosity, that fantastic belief in the genius of the leader was what flowed through her veins and the organization was structured and organized to support that completely erroneous belief.

– Yes, because of the apparent success of these people. I’ve, I’ve seen this in, in other teams as well, where the leader, or the team of the leader seems to be doing well, so they’re allowed to continue with these kinds of behaviors when actually, they’re not only socially wrong, they’re actually illegal in terms of a lot of, you know, the employment laws that we’ve got. You can’t do that, or you’re not meant to be doing those kinds of things, but they get away with it.

– Yeah. Well, success is a very worrying and complex phenomenon. And I gave the example earlier of RBS under Fred Goodwin and the disastrous bank acquisition that they made and how they did what they called the due diligence light. But one of the reasons why they were so overconfident in themselves was that they had had a track record of previous mergers and acquisitions. And this made them think that they were masters of strategy and masters of acquisition who didn’t need to do the hard work that other people needed to do. Unfortunately, it led them completely to disaster.

– Yeah. Yeah. And it’s not uncommon with a series of successes, for people to start to believe that those successes are are their own doing, as opposed to the possibility of random chance, even.

– Yes. And I mean, intense good publicity farms the fuels of precisely this problem, It’s often said that you should sell your shares in an organization when it has a new headquarters and a fountain at the front and RBS we’ve done to our building, precisely like that. Not a terribly long time before it went bankrupt. Elizabeth Holmes from Thoranos also had fantastically favorable publicity before the scam that she was basically involved in became known. For example, she was featured on the front page of Fortune magazine, profiled in glowing terms in many other numerous outlets, was photographed and interviewed in the company that people like bill Clinton, I think once was Barack Obama and other people that kind as well. She was well connected and used her connections to achieve a certain kind of effect. But that type of publicity turns the head of any one of us. And then when you add to that, that inside the organization, you’re surrounded by flatterers, people telling you what a genius you are. That would take a very strong individual, male or female, to avoid drawing the conclusion that yes, these people are all correct.

– Yes, yeah, exactly. Yeah, I used to work in an organization, which will remain nameless, where the head of the organization used to play golf. And whilst that person was in that organization, we had the biggest golf section that there’d ever been. And as soon as they left, nobody was interested in golf again. It was like what?

– I recall an interview with George W. Bush’s father. Actually, he was American president where somebody once said to him, what’s the main thing you notice now that you’re no longer president? And he said, well, I win a lot fewer rounds of golf.

– Yes, probably right. Brilliant. Okay, so bearing in mind that this is for kind of practitioners in organizations, from your perspective, you know, what’s the biggest takeaway from this research that organizations can take away and use?

– Well, I think there are several. I would say, first of all, we should be suspicious and skeptical of any view that says we can ascribe an organization’s success totally to the CEO. Success has many sources. The CEO might be one of them, but then we have things like luck that plays a certain part as well. We have a tendency to engage in what researchers have called the romance of leadership, whereby we assume that there’s something is going well, or badly, for that matter, it must be the fault or the credit of the leader. I would include skepticism about that view. Time and time again, in my interviews with the banking people, I heard the boards were of very little use in counteracting these tendencies because the view had emerged that the role of the board was to support the CEO, rather than to challenge them. And people on the boards were also frightened that if they openly criticized… If they criticized the CEO at board meetings, they would lose their position on boards. So, I think we need to and educate ourselves on what the rule of boards actually is. It should be to scrutinize, to criticize, to interrogate and to dissent. If there is no dissent at that level, then we’ve got the makings of hubris. So I think that we need to create an environment in which leaders and other people do elementary things like role-model dissent, where we have devil’s advocate roles at these particular forums, where boards become more diverse in their composition. Some research has found, for example, that it’s very helpful to have a significant number of board members who are from outside that particular business, because they’re less likely to worry about asking idiotic questions and thereby opening up a process of discussion. I think that’s extremely important. We need to rethink what our role… what our image of the role of the follower is. The role of the follower isn’t just to support, but it’s also to criticize. Also to criticize. And I cherish the story that I read a little while ago of general Patraeus, I think, who used to be one of Trump’s advisors, told the story about when he was a young officer. He went… he was sent to work with another general and the general said, “Look, it’s my role to run this division. It’s your job to ruthlessly criticize how I do it. I want a two page report from you on my desk every fortnight criticizing the decisions that I have made.” and Patreus said, “What are you talking about? I can’t do that. You’re…” And he said said, “Nope, that’s your job. That’s what you have to do.” So this young officer was forced to criticize him every couple of weeks. And of course, in doing so, learn about what it meant to be a leader and what the difficulties were of trying to reach, trying to reach decisions. And I had a very touching letter, actually, from that General’s daughter after I read about this somewhere, who said that he had died quite recently, but that this was absolutely the style that he had and the way that he encouraged the people around him to develop. We need to think about leadership as developing other people into leadership roles in that sense. And that means not pretending that one individual at the top has all of the the expertise needed to make decisions. And maybe lastly, I would say specifically, in relation to the banking and finance sectors, repeatedly, I was told that the regulatory authorities had very low respect from bankers and so on. Not necessarily because the… of the powers that they had, but because the individuals associated with it, in general, were seen as young, inexperienced and amateurish. So I think we need to improve the quality of the people who work in regulatory authorities as well. So that they are less intimidated by those that they are regulating and more willing to take action when action is truly indicated as necessary.

– Yes. Yeah. And we see there’s a similar thing going on in, in other organizations like tax. So, you know, federal government tax organizations that are having to look at, like, a large organization’s taxes, where they, they get suckered into and intimidated by these organizations. Yeah, I completely agree.

– Well, you know, if you cast your minds back to Enron, which went bankrupt in 2001 in America, and it was the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. corporate history up until Lehman brothers went belly up in 2008. The auditing organizations failed completely to properly audit what Enron was up to, for some of the same reasons, but also because they’re too intimate a business relationship with the organization that they were, they were auditing. So we need regulators to stand back, to be separated, to have proper powers of supervision, but also to have the expertise that makes them credible in those kinds of environments. And of course, the resources actually do the job.

– Hmm. W… a lot of the things that you’re talking about, we also find in high-performance teams. So we find high performance teams aren’t in agreement, but they’re constantly giving each other, like, critical feedback on a continual basis. And, you know, you just look at some of the international rugby teams. There’s this constant chatter going on within the team whilst they’re playing, you know, and, and it is that proper feedback.

– Absolutely. I mean, we know for a long time that successful teams and high functioning teams, they’re not characterized by the absence of disagreement. They’re characterized by its presence. Because if people are not openly disagreeing with each other, it just means they’re doing it behind each other’s back. And I read a fascinating paper a while go by Andy Holding, he is one of the most senior figures at the Bank of England, where he went out of his way to demonstrate in this paper how the top team at the Bank of England institutionalizes critical feedback into it’s top decision-making processes. They actually go out of the way to look for the problems that are there and decisions. So I often say to teams they should do simple things, like before they make a major decision, just stop and say, okay, let’s ruthlessly criticize it. Let’s look at what’s wrong with it. Not what’s good about it. Let’s all express reservations. And by the way, I’m the leader. So I’ll start, and then go around and force everybody to actually express these reservations. Because the truth is that difficult, complex decisions always have their downside. I’m not advocating paralysis of decision-making. I am advocating that key decisions should be scrutinized much more thoroughly than it often appears to be the case that they are.

– Yes. Yeah. And I’ve seen a couple of teams within organizations that have a leader of the opposition role within their… and that that rotates around and their job is to criticize, to critique and to ask for further evidence for things, to say there isn’t enough evidence for that. And that can really kind of sharpen things up. I’ve seen that in a couple of cases. And certainly…

– I mean, the classic example of course, is the Cuban missile crisis. If we can think that far back to when America and Russia teetered on the brink of nuclear war in the early 1960s. The president was under enormous pressure from the American military to invade Cuba. They were unaware that nuclear warheads were already in the country at that time. But one of the things that Kennedy did, under enormous pressure, was to slow the decision-making process down and appoint his brother, Bobby as an official devil’s advocate. So people going into meetings would often know that whatever they said, Bobby Kennedy would ruthlessly criticize it. The result was that an atmosphere developed where people could share different opinions and it led us out of an all mighty mess. Faced with much less consequential decisions, I don’t see why business organizations cannot do the same.

– Yeah, I would absolutely agree with it. Absolutely agree with it. Well, this has, well, A, been fascinating and brilliant. Thank you very much, Dennis. How can our members contact you if they want to do so? Where are you?

– Well, the simplest way to contact me would be for anybody to just send me an email. And perhaps you can put my email address on the website when you post this conversation. For now, my email address is [email protected]

– Brilliant. Yes, we’ll put that and the department, link and things within the show notes, and obviously I’ll send you a link as well. It’s been a brilliant session. Thank you very much, Dennis. I really appreciate it.

– My pleasure. And if anybody wants a copy of the paper that you were talking about on Hubris: The Very Root, just send me an email and I will happily forward it.

– That’s very generous. Thank you.

Be impressively well informed

Get the very latest research intelligence briefings, video research briefings, infographics and more sent direct to you as they are published

Be the most impressively well-informed and up-to-date person around...

Powered by ConvertKit
Like what you see? Help us spread the word

David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page