A Guide to Dysfunctional Management and the Evil Workplace
September 29th, 2012 by William

The Hubris Syndrome

Someone afflicted with “The Hubris Syndrome,” a term first coined by David Owen in his book of the same name, exhibits an exaggerated pride, overwhelming self-confidence and contempt for others. Someone suffering from The Hubris Syndrome rarely admits failure. The Hubris Syndrome becomes the signature trait of the sociopath that has risen to the top of your typical dysfunctional organization.

The Hubris Syndrome creates an attitude that does not allow these narcissists to learn from any mistakes they make, in fact they begin to believe that they can’t make a mistake. Rarely does a sociopath admit mistakes and usually they hide behind plausible deniability whenever the stuff does hit the fan. Thus they begin to develop the loathing they have for all who are below them in the organization because they see them as the source of all problems. These sociopaths are adored by their loyal sycophants and develop a mindset of invincibility. Thus, everyone in the organization begins to view them as invincible and as such the sociopath can rise to the top without ever really accomplishing anything of value.

In his 2011 book; A First Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness, Nassir Ghaemi talks about the Civil War general McClellan who exemplifies The Hubris Syndrome and the condition I describe above. Ghaemi sums up McClellan’s rise to the top; “He had not failed enough to realize that he was not as great as everyone [and he] said he was.”

McClellan’s story is an interesting one. George McClellan (1826 – 1885) was a major general during the American Civil War and served as the General-in-Chief of the Union Army. He rose to the top without ever really accomplishing anything substantial and thus never really failed at anything. However, after many defeats at the hands of the Confederate Army, McClellan’s leadership skills during battle came into question by President Lincoln, who eventually removed him from command. In 1864 he faced Lincoln as the Democratic Party candidate for President. Of course he lost. He then fell into obscurity.

Why is McClellan’s story important? If you’re suffering at the hands of a sociopath in a dysfunctional workplace, have faith that the time will come when they will ultimately become as McClellan. As history has taught us, they all go down in flames eventually. In business, The Hubris Syndrome has been the undoing of many a sociopath who was once thought to be invincible. As Ghaemi reminds us; “Had he not become king, no one would have doubted his fitness to rule.”


3 Responses to “The Hubris Syndrome”
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  3. Christoper says

    What’s up colleagues? Good post and nice arguments. I’m enjoying these.

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