Hubris can sabotage your career. Here’s how to avoid it

Ted Leonhardt
6 min readMar 31, 2023
Thanks to Fast Company

Unrestrained pride in your abilities or achievements can lead to shame, humiliation, and — without correction — disaster.

Excessive pride can sabotage your career. But unfortunately, many of us experience a similar pattern: first we are strivers, then we are achievers, and then hubris takes hold.

I’ve experienced this pattern more often than I care to admit. Maybe you have, too.

Power and success are tricky to manage. We’re all prone to hubris. The trick, especially at work, is recognizing hubris and adjusting our behavior before it causes damage. Hubris has a stealthy way of warping our self-awareness when we need it most. And in the office, hubris can damage our relationships, limit collaboration, and hinder learning. Ultimately, being humble will always garner the most positive response.

Here’s why hubris is so common, and how to avoid it:

The danger of hubris

When I think about hubris, I often think about a life-changing moment I had during a driving lesson on a local track. Among the four of us in the car, an instructor, and two fellow students, I was the third to take the wheel. Eager to do my best, I followed the instructor’s directions. I didn’t want to look like an idiot.

I gripped the wheel and zeroed in on the track, the car, and the dynamics in play.

After the first couple of turns, our instructor praised my technique. I felt myself relax as I guided us with a surge of confidence into the next bend. I realized just a bit too late that I was going too fast. The car, destabilized by a slight lift in the track, lost traction, started to slide sideways, and then entirely out of my control, spun off the track, and came to rest in a cloud of dust.

A moment of quiet followed. We all breathed a sigh of relief as the dust settled. Our instructor turned to me and said: “My compliments went right to your head.”

In seconds, I had gone from striving, to achieving, to being overconfident. In the end, I put us all at risk.

What is hubris

Hubris is a word that describes unrestrained pride in your abilities or achievements, leading to shame, humiliation, and…

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Ted Leonhardt

Helping designers and other creative professionals win negotiations. Author, coach, trainer, consultant. http://www.tedleonhardt.com