Do line managers have a role in holding back hubristic leaders?
At the CIPD’s Developing Line Managers Conference in London this week, delegates discussed the role that line managers can play, and the skills they need, in holding back hubristic bosses. The conference highlighted the unique pivot point position that line managers occupy, able to look upwards (to a potentially hubristic boss) and downwards (towards those likely to be affected by a hubristic boss’s actions). Being in this position gives line managers a buffering role and filtering function which could help to insulate those lower down the organization from the effects of hubristic senior leaders. Three key issues emerged at the Conference. First, if line managers are to play a role in holding-back hubristic bosses, they need to be able to know what they are looking for (i.e. overconfident, over-ambitious and reckless senior leader behavior that shows contempt for the advice and criticism of others). Second, amongst the key anti-hubris skills that line managers are likely to need are ‘gritty listening’ (for picking-up on top-down and bottom-up signals that might indicate a hubristic boss in the making) and ‘candid conversation skills’ (to help hubristic leaders see themselves as others see them). Third, in reining-in a hubristic leader, line managers need to be able to speak truth to power in an organizational culture that not only gives them the right to do so but also where it’s a responsibility of all those likely to be affected by the actions of a hubrist to speak-up and ‘say it’ when they ‘see it’.