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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For more on Hubris Syndrome, visit daedalustrust.com – the website of the academic and research oriented Trust dedicated to raising awareness of this important leadership and governance issue.