WHAT IS HUBRIS?
hubris [hju:bris] 1 arrogant pride or presumption. 2 (in Greek tragedy) excessive pride towards or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis
Hubris is a potentially lethal cocktail of over-confidence, over-ambition, arrogance and pride. It’s a malaise of powerful and successful leaders which is fuelled by prior success and media praise, and feeds off the collusion and conformance of followers. When it’s allied to contempt for helpful advice and constructive criticism it can cause leaders in all walks of life to over-reach themselves and in doing so invite negative and sometimes calamitous consequences.
Hubris isn't new; the Ancient Greeks called it hybris and warned against 'thinking big' in their myths such as Icarus and Daedalus and the divine retribution served-up by the goddess Nemesis.
Hubris hasn't gone away; it is still, in the words of Bertrand Russell writing at the end of WW2, 'the greatest danger of our time'. If proof were needed look no further than the catastrophic consequences of hubris in the 2007 financial crisis, 2003 invasion of Iraq and 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
In the words of the philosopher Mary Midgley "hubris calls for nemesis, and in one form or another it’s going to get it, not as a punishment from outside but as the completion of a pattern already started".