Hubris Syndrome

Hubris Syndrome

In 2002 Lord Owen gave a lecture to the Annual Meeting of the Association of British Neurologists and the British Neuropsychiatry Association on “The effect of serious illness on Heads of State or Government”.  This was later published as an Occasional paper in the QJM (Q J Med 2003; 96:325-336) entitled “Diseased, demented, depressed: serious illness in Heads of State.  In February 2005, as Chancellor of Liverpool University, Lord Owen delivered the Lord Henry Cohen History of Medicine Lecture on “The effect of Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s illness on his decision-making during the Suez Crisis”. read more…..

Linguistic biomarkers of Hubris syndrome

Co-authored paper with David Owen published by Elsevier 2013

The phenomenon of exuberant overconfidence (hubris), and subsequent humiliation or destruction (nemesis) of powerful leaders is a familiar one: it is a recurring theme in Ancient Greek tragedy, runs through the Western dramatic canon in depictions of doomed tyrants, and has been played out in the rise and fall of dictators throughout history, right up to the present century. The English language itself reflects the cul- tural impact of the phenomenon in cliche ́ (“power has gone to his head”), proverbs (“pride goes before a fall”), and dicta [“power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts abso- lutely” (Acton, 1887)]. Recent events in Western democratic politics, business and finance have brought wider issues of leadership, and what Bertrand Russell (1961) referred to as ‘the intoxication of power’, under renewed scrutiny…

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Science can help to spot symptoms of executive hubris

Article published in The Financial Times 23 September 2013

How can an investor tell if a bank is heading for danger? In the past five years, analysts have proposed all manner of financial measures. But why not analyse the words of the person running the bank? Researchers have been looking at the speech patterns of leaders such as British politicians and bank chief executives. And this has revealed a point that we instinctively know but often forget: power not only goes to the head, but also to the tongue.

More specifically, when leaders become hubristic, it generates what psychologists call “linguistic biomarkers”. Hubris has long fascinated poets, philosophers and political scientists. Four years ago David Owen, a former British foreign minister who happens also to be a psychiatrist, tried to give the idea a firmer framework by listing 14 markers of hubris. He examined dozens of British and US politicians over the past century and concluded that some leaders (such as the former British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair) had succumbed to hubris in office. Others (such as John Major) had not…

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Power corrupts but it also plays with your mind: Lloyd George, Chamberlain and Thatcher all suffered from ‘hubris syndrome’

Article by Lord Owen published in The Independent 22 September 2013

If we are to prevent disasters such as a re-run of the global financial crisis or an escalation of conflict in the Middle East, the warnings inherent in the tales of Ancient Greece could demonstrate important lessons.

The phenomenon of exuberant overconfidence (hubris) and subsequent humiliation or destruction (nemesis) of powerful leaders has played out throughout history.

Senior figures in politics, finance, business and academia told a conference at the Judge Institute in Cambridge this week that current leaders must become self- aware of hubristic tendencies in themselves, and take active steps to avoid the development of Hubris Syndrome (HS), an acquired personality disorder which unchecked, can result in disastrous decision-making. It tends to remit on leaving office.

HS was first described in 2009 by Lord David Owen, a neurologist and former Foreign Secretary. With US colleague Jonathan Davidson, he described its characteristic pattern of exuberant overconfidence, recklessness and contempt for others, displaying Bertrand Russell’s ‘intoxication of power’..

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Hubris Syndrome- Lord Owen Speaks to the IOP Students

Lecture by Lord Owen to the IOP Students, 17 June 2013

Students from the Mental Health Studies Programme at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s were given a fascinating insight into the dark world of the Hubris Syndrome in a lecture presented by Lord David Owen.

In his talk, Lord Owen described the ‘Hubris Syndrome’ – how the intoxication of power takes hold and turns many leaders into tyrants who are no longer able or willing to listen to the advice from intelligent and respected sources.  Consequently, for those suffering from the syndrome, once the glory and success has gone to their heads, it affects every action they take – a trajectory which can lead to devastating consequences.

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Lord David Owen Speaking at the ‘How The Light Gets In’ Festival, Hay On Wye

Ten years after the start of the Iraq war we are still waiting for the Iraq Inquiry report chaired by Sir John Chilcot. Almost beyond belief the Inquiry is being prevented from revealing extracts that they believe relevant from exchanges between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. They are a specially appointed group of Privy Councillors made for the purpose by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. They were chosen after discussion with Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair.

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Speech on Hubris Syndrome by Lord Owen: James Joyce Award

Speech on ‘Hubris Syndrome’ Delivered by The RT Hon Lord David Owen CH On The Occasion Of The Conferral Of The James Joyce Award By The Literary and Historical Society University College, Dublin

Tuesday 4 October 2011

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Simon Jenkins, Writing in The Guardian Supports David Owen’s Call for Study of Impact of Power on Leader’s Personality

“Gordon Brown now suffers that incurable syndrome: ex-PM”

Article by Simon Jenkins, in The Guardian Thursday 14 July 2011

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