Executive Hubris: The Case of a Bank CEO

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Title: Executive Hubris: The Case of a Bank CEO
Authors: Brennan, Niamh
Conroy, John P.
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/4962
Date: 2013
Abstract: Purpose: Can personality traits of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) be detected at-a-distance? Following newspaper speculation that the banking crisis of 2008 was partly caused by CEO hubris, this paper analyses the CEO letters to shareholders of a single bank over ten years for evidence of CEO personality traits, including: (i) narcissism (a contributor to hubris), (ii) hubris, (iii) overconfidence and (iv) CEO-attribution. Following predictions that hubris increases the longer individuals occupy positions of power, the research examines whether hubristic characteristics intensify over time.   Design/methodology/approach: This paper takes concepts of hubris from the clinical psychology literature and applies them to discourses in CEO letters to shareholders in annual reports. The research comprises a longitudinal study of the discretionary narrative disclosures in the CEO letters to shareholders in eight annual reports, benchmarked against disclosures in the CEO letters to shareholders of the previous and subsequent CEOs of the same organisation.   Findings: Results point to evidence of narcissism and hubris in the personality of the Bank CEO. Over half the sentences analysed were found to contain narcissistic-speak. In 45% of narcissistic-speak sentences, there were three of more symptoms of hubris ¿ what Owen and Davison (2009) describe as extreme hubristic behavior. In relation to CEO overconfidence, only seven (2%) sentences contained bad news. More than half of the good news was attributed to the CEO and all the bad news was attributed externally. The research thus finds evidence of hubris in the CEO letters to shareholders, which became more pronounced the longer the CEO served.   Research limitations/implications: The analysis of CEO discourse is highly subjective, and difficult to replicate.   Originality/value: The primary contribution of this research is the adaptation of the 14 clinical symptoms of hubris from clinical psychology to the analysis of narratives in CEO letters to shareholders in annual reports to reveal signs of CEO hubris.   Keywords Discretionary narrative disclosures, Annual reports, Narcissism, Hubris, CEOs, Social psychology
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: Emerald
Copyright (published version): 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Keywords: Annual reports;Chief executives;Discretionary narrative disclosures;Hubris;Narcissism;Social psychology
DOI: 10.1108/09513571311303701
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Business Research Collection
UCD RePEc Archive Collection

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