Hubris — The 6 letter word that torpedoes careers

Hubris — A 6 letter word that torpedoes careers

I was in London a few weeks ago and witnessed a man see his life’s work — his moment of triumph — disintegrate into total failure and humiliation.

After a lifetime of toil and pressure, he was given the top job in his industry. Sixty or so days later he was fired in disgrace, and all in front of the world’s media.

His mistake? It’s a six letter word. Does it describe you? Is this trait flirting with you, just a little?

Just about the most dangerous trait in business is when someone starts showing ‘hubris.’

And that’s what English national football team manager, Sam Allardyce, was seduced by. He blew his moment in the sun, and fell victim to this wonderful adage:

Today a peacock, tomorrow a feather duster.

Hubris is defined as “extreme pride or arrogance, often indicating a loss of contact with reality and an over-estimation of one’s own competence, capabilities and accomplishments, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power”.

Big Sam thought he was the man, and his hubris led him to great indiscretion in a secretly recorded interview staged by a British newspaper. Sam mouthed off and big-noted. Sam got fired. After just 60 or so days in the top job in the land.

Hubris. I’ve seen it in big CEOs, in politicians, amongst colleagues, and competitors. Every now and then, I see myself flirting with it. STOP! Look hard in that mirror, often, and when you see a touch of hubris winking back at you, then take action. Get it under control. Fast.

Of course we need to build self-esteem and confidence by rationally and relevantly acknowledging our achievements — what we do well, what we bring, contribute and help grow. But whenever a sense of self-satisfaction starts creeping in, then it’s time to stop and think.

Remember these 7 points to keep your career on track

  1. It takes very little for our position of strength, or what we have today, to be eroded or taken away.
  2. Take nothing for granted.
  3. Keep absolutely focused on what you can contribute next.
  4. We are only as good as our NEXT result.
  5. Remain absolutely paranoid, always.
  6. Never rest on your laurels.
  7. Keep relentlessly dissatisfied with your own performance and contribution.

Absolutely, pat yourself on the back when you kick a goal — reinforce that you are valuable, skilled and make a valuable contribution.

Then move on — channel all your energies on making your next effort even better.

Today a peacock, tomorrow a feather duster. Or as David Ogilvy put it:

Don’t be so easily happy with yourself.

Keep it with you, always.


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