web analytics


Hubris, General Election, Westminster, Parliament, Thames, London


Hubris (n): extreme pride, especially pride and ambition so great that they ‘offend the gods’ and lead to one’s downfall


There are lessons in the General Election outcome for any leader or aspiring leader – in my opinion this isn’t a forced link between my leadership coaching and current affairs. For me these lessons jumped out from this campaign and during last year’s EU Referendum.

We have seen two successive leaders, UK Prime Ministers no less, who have (to coin a phrase) believed their own hype. Cameron clearly felt he could sail through the Referendum given his previous victories in the Scottish Independence Referendum and the 2015 General Election. His interference, in coaching terms, is straight out of a Psychosynthesis textbook: his previous success having impacted to the extent that his judgement was impaired and/or he didn’t perform at his best.

And now GE17…

Theresa May stood on the doorstep of No 10 Downing St and stated that the country was coming together but Parliament was not. She believed this. I know nobody who also believed it.

She made herself the centre of a campaign to an extent not seen for a long time, believing her ‘Strong & Stable’ message when many of us thought it was dissonant, were saying “she’s not great as a campaigner is she?”

She believed the polls, she has people around her who confirmed her self-belief, who filtered critics out of her realm. She is someone who actually looked startled if asked a challenging question – was that “how dare you?” or was it “I’m stuck”.

And now the outcome which has clearly shaken her (if her speech at her count is anything to go by). That impact is arguable evidence that she did not entertain the possibility that she was out of touch with the public mood. She thought she would be strengthened by calling an Election and objectively she has, whatever the precise outcome, been weakened.

Despite this she is back on that doorstep talking as if nothing has happened, the direction of travel will not be adjusted.

Volumes will be written about all this but I am not a current affairs commentator and my points are not political. This is about leadership so let’s try a ‘read across’ to organisational leadership, to coaching of executives:

  • To what extent do you have people around you who will tell you the honest truth?
  • Do you understand your true strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you do to reinforce the former and address the latter – through development or via key appointments?
  • Are you locked away in an ‘ivory tower’ or are you out & about with your ear to the ground?
  • What do you do with unwelcome data? Data which does not support your ideas or your agenda?
  • Do you reward people who add to the mix, who are different, who think differently to you?
  • Do you maintain a sense of balance & perspective or do you let one success lead you to expect future success?
  • Do you disparage new competitors or treat them seriously, see them as realistic challenges to you and your business’ success?
  • Do you acknowledge setbacks and reflect on what they mean, or do you soldier on regardless without discussion of whether the direction of travel might be adjusted?
  • Which values are non-negotiable if you are entering into alliances or collaborations with others?
  • Is there resonance between your self-view and how others see you? Or dissonance?

Overall…..could hubris be your interference? Could it be what gets in your way, what detracts from your ability to unlock your true potential?


FootnoteP Lost

“In his epic ‘Paradise Lost’, Milton portrays ‘Satan’ as a character that suffers from
Hubris. He loses his glorious position through giving in to his excessive pride. It was his Hubris that made him try to take control over Heaven. Although he failed miserably, his pride lasts: ‘Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.’ ”  (From: https://literarydevices.net)