Summary by Dr. Whitesel: “Tough love, humility and servant leadership may be the keys to preventing organizational hubris.”
Rooting Out Hubris, Before a Fall
by Steven Berglas, Harvard Business Review,
Steven Bergllas states: “Kenneth Lay, the former CEO of Enron, is a good example of executive hubris. Long before the company imploded, Lay lauded his company for being a ‘new economy’ corporation ‘before it became cool to be one…’ What is tragic about Lay’s self-destruction and the Enron collapse — apart from the number of lives ruined by it — is … he let his pride get in the way of reason, causing devastation as a result. Unable to watch his pride and joy fail, and unwilling to make the hard decisions that might have saved a diminished version of it, he decided to cook the books – and in so doing, his business’s goose.
Is there ever a way to deflate hubris while it’s still inflating, before the bubble disastrously bursts? A few structural modifications of your corporate zeitgeist – or clarifications of principles you assumed were clear and accepted — along with some well-placed and properly-timed shots of tough love should do the trick…
Chief among the aspects of your corporate culture that you must imbue in all employees –but particularly the stars who are most vulnerable to hubris— is the virtue of humility…
Even if you do so, however, you cannot ensure that one of your ‘big hitters’ won’t make a public display of himself following a major success. This is the time for tough love: Let him know in stern terms that his celebratory antics are not becoming. Remind him that most people enjoy rooting for underdogs, dark horses, and long shots – especially when they’re competing against top dogs. (Avis Corporation’s “We’re #2!” ad campaign capitalized on just this feeling.) It’s human nature to enjoy the sight of an idol falling off a pedestal… This is why humble pie should be the only dessert served in the corporate cafeteria …”