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Ego Check: How to avoid the trap of Hubris

I recently finished an interesting book by Mathew Hayward called Ego Check: Why executive hubris is wrecking companies and careers and how to avoid the trap. Many of Hayward's examples are found in the corporate and finance world, however his findings are universal for any leader. This post will highlight the universal truths found by Hayward and how it relates to all leaders. 

The sin (according to Hayward) of "hubris," or excessive pride, carries a heavy price. Extreme ego or misplaced confidence destroys the culprit, and his or her leadership. 

"The key is to check our decisions and actions, ahead of time, to determine whether they reflect authentic or false confidence"

The Danger of Excess Confidence

Overconfidence manifests itself in four intermingled, dangerous qualities:

1. Acting based on excess pride

2. Failing to get the right help

3. Failing to evaluate the reality of a business problem or opprotunity

4. Failing to face the consequences of a mistaken policy or action 

"Leaders [must] embrace the consequences, positive and negative, of important organizational decisions" 

Don't Kid Yourself 

Best example is how overconfidence extends to individual attitudes toward personal health. Surveys show that many Americans believe they enjoy better-then-average health. They think they have a lower risk of cancer than everyone else. Were it not for overconfidence, many more people would give up cigarettes, alcohol, and fatty foods. The implication is very serious. When people underestimate their changes of becoming ill, they avoid check-ups. 

The Nightmare Results of Hubris

Reason 1: Failure to seek support and advice

"There are few more disastrous components of decision making than a failure to get - and act upon - feedback."

Reason 2: Delusion and Denial

"While there is nothing wrong with celebrity per se, it becomes an issue because, as [Michael] Dell puts it, 'it's easy to fall in love with how far you've come and how much you've done."

Maintaining Perspective 

To circumvent exaggerated self-importance, take these steps:
- Consider the consequences of every good decision before you move ahead

- Make sure your decisions are good for business and yourself 

- Be consistent in your behavior and choices

- Get the job done rather than positioning yourself to impress management 

- Share praise with other who help complete a successive deal

- Don't embellish; refrain from being self-serving or exaggerated your abilities