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 the advice and criticism of others 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 knew all about it (hybris) and captured moral lessons against 'thinking too big' in their myths, in tales such as Icarus and Daedalus, and the concept of divine retribution embodied in the goddess Nemesis.
Hubris hasn't gone away; it presents business organisations and civil society with, in the words of Bertrand Russell, 'the greatest danger of our time'. If proof were needed look no further than the catastrophic consequences of hubris in the 2007 financial crisis and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
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".