The current financial meltdown has in part
been caused by bankers who display the attributes of Hubris
Syndrome, a former leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has
Lord David Owen, a trained medical doctor,
told delegates at the Royal College of Psychiatrists Annual Meeting
in Liverpool that some banking chief executives –responsible for
making the “rogue banking decisions” that led to the current
financial crisis – displayed traits of the syndrome.
Lord Owen warned delegates: “The origin of the
financial situation we are in lies in rogue banking decisions. The
consequence of allowing these people to continue in power unchecked
are pretty serious.”
According to Lord Owen, Hubris Syndrome is
“acquired” and tends to occur once a person is in a position of
power. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair have both had it, he
Lord Owen said some of the characteristics of
people with Hubris Syndrome include:
- a narcissistic propensity to see the
world as an arena in which they can exercise poor and seek
- a predisposition to take actions which
seem likely to cast them in a good light/ enhance their image.
- a disproportionate concern with image and
- an identification of themselves with the
nation, or organisation, to the extent that they regard their
outlook and interests as identical.
- restlessness, recklessness and
- a tendency to talk of themselves in the
third person or under the royal ‘we’.
- excessive confidence in their own
judgement and contempt for the advice or criticism of others.
- exaggerated self belief, bordering on a
sense of omnipotence, in what they personally can achieve.
- loss of contact with reality, often
associated with progressive isolation.
- hubristic incompetence – where things go
wrong because too much self confidence has led the leader not to
worry about the nuts and bolts of policy.
According to Lord Owen, who has written a
paper for the medical journal Brain, the phenomenon is
captured in phrases such as ‘power has gone to his head’, ‘he’s
taken leave of his senses’, ‘he’s lost his marbles’ or ‘she’s lost
all touch with reality’.
Lord Owen also admits he was in danger of
developing the syndrome when he was leader of the SDP.
To counter the problem, he said UK firms
should learn from the United States where chief executives are
contained and constrained thanks to a ‘mentoring system’. This
involves bringing someone in from outside the firm, often in a high
position, who people can look up to, and establishes a
Lord Own concluded: “This is something
businesses could and should get a grip on.”
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Annual Meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, BT Convention Centre, Liverpool, 2 -5 June 2009