One of many unusual issues in regards to the failure of management is that it’s so apparent. The the explanation why it occurs are apparent. The results are apparent, virtually inevitable. And but, as within the Greek tragedies of classical instances, future appears to only take over. Why is that this?
The 2 most blatant examples from 2022 couldn’t be extra totally different of their features, needs and goals: Elon Musk and Vladimir Putin. However in a single essential respect, they overlap relatively clearly, and that’s their hubris on a galactic scale. And in each instances, that might come near being a literal description.
Musk misplaced round $100-billion of his wealth; gained maybe the least interesting entry into the Guinness World Information as the one that has misplaced probably the most cash in historical past; and, arguably worst of all, was booed when launched on Dave Chappelle’s comedy present. He additionally misplaced his place because the world’s richest man to — look forward to it — a Frenchman.
Putin has basically misplaced the struggle in Ukraine; it’s not over but, however the prospect of true victory is gone. He has misplaced his place on this planet, and, I’m keen to guess, his recognition among the many Russian individuals, which up until earlier this 12 months has been remarkably resilient.
He has additionally misplaced, it’s loosely estimated, about 70,000 of his compatriots, Russian troopers who’ve died on the battlefield which a few of his personal generals argued he mustn’t have entered. No one is aware of precisely how many individuals have died within the Ukraine invasion; definitely loads of Ukrainian civilians from the random missile blasts, and troopers within the trenches.
However there appears little doubt that extra Russians have died on this “particular army operation” than died within the Russian struggle in Afghanistan. And that lasted 12 years.
One other overlap between these two very totally different people, I believe, activates a single phrase: invulnerability. Leaders and management, as everyone knows, undergo phases. However psychologists have recognised that there’s a level the place leaders think about themselves invulnerable — and that, my pal, is the place the difficulty (and the hubris) begin.
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There are a gazillion research that present and attempt to measure this impact, however its existence goes again millennia. Greek mythology tells the story with fantastic graphic prowess within the story of Icarus, who flew too near the solar.
Based on the story, Daedalus, a legendary inventor, created wings manufactured from feathers and wax to flee from Crete the place he and his son, Icarus, have been held captive by King Minos. Icarus, nonetheless, ignored his father’s warnings and flew too near the solar. His wings melted and he fell into the ocean, the place he unceremoniously died.
There may be one other model involving each Icarus and Oedipus, the place Icarus flew too near his mother. Ba dum.
Extra just lately, Stanford Enterprise College lecturer and prolific creator Jim Collins has written subtly on the levels of company decline within the guide How the Mighty Fall. Proper on the high of the declining trajectory, he lists Hubris Born of Success.
The success half is, I believe, the essential bit. As a result of to turn into overpowered by a way of invulnerability, you need to first succeed — typically greater than you anticipated. Each Putin and Musk, in their very own method, have been enormously profitable.
And the way do you keep away from falling into this entice? Probably the most frequent recommendation given is to “keep humble”, which strikes me as probably the most contradictory recommendation ever given. For those who have been humble within the first place, you’d virtually by definition by no means get to be able the place it might be essential to be humble down the road. However what you are able to do, I assume, is to internalise the true causes on your success, which can or could not embody being proper loads of the time, and could also be a minimum of partly the results of the work of your colleagues.
One other piece of recommendation is to hear, actually hear, to your longest-serving and most-trusted colleagues and buddies. In actual fact, this final level is an efficient indication of when hubris is taking up, as a result of when leaders begin ousting their most dependable lieutenants, that’s a very good signal issues are about to go pear-shaped.
This too, I believe, has its limits. Received’t your lieutenants be a little bit jealous of your success on the apex of your achievement? Will they provide the identical recommendation at that second that they might have given you at first? Lieutenants additionally change, in any case.
However usually, I feel that is good recommendation. In some sense, we’re who we select as our associates and buddies. If the festive season is about something in any respect, it’s about refreshing your friendships, and that, it seems, is rather more priceless than it may appear. DM/BM