Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

Incipient hubris syndrome?

Posted by Andrew Cooper on December 11, 2008

A Roman conqueror

A Roman conqueror

Former neurologist and Foreign Secretary David Owen suggested in his recent book ‘In Sickness and in Power‘ that some heads of government succumb to a variation of the manic phase of bipolar syndrome. They become excessively self-confident, convince themselves that they never make mistakes and are contemptuous of advice particularly if it runs counter to what they believe. He cites Anthony Eden, Margaret Thatcher, the Shah of Iran and Messrs Bush and Blair as probable sufferers.

It may have been a slip of the tongue, but Gordon Brown’s claim, while speaking in Parliament yesterday, to have ‘saved the world‘ sounded to me like a possible early symptom of hubris syndrome.

Perhaps all heads of government should, like Roman conquerors during their triumphs, have a slave or civil servant standing behind them at all times whispering “all glory is fleeting”? The PM could also read the post below in which I quoted Kotter’s observation that one of the main reasons that change programmes fail is the tendency to declare victory too soon.

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