Linguistic Markers of CEO Hubris

Abstract

This article explores the link between CEOs’ language and hubristic leadership. It is based on the precepts that leaders’ linguistic utterances provide insights into their personality and behaviours; hubris is associated with unethical and potentially destructive leadership behaviours; if it is possible to identify linguistic markers of CEO hubris then these could serve as early warnings sign and help to mitigate the associated risks. Using computational linguistics, we analysed spoken utterances from a sample of hubristic CEOs and compared them with non-hubristic CEOs. We found that hubristic CEOs’ linguistic utterances show systematic and consistent differences from the linguistic utterances of non-hubristic CEOs. Demonstrating how hubristic leadership manifests in CEO language contributes to wider research regarding the diagnosis and prevention of the unethical and potentially destructive effects of hubristic leadership. This research contributes to the wider study of hubris and unethical leadership by applying a novel method for identifying linguistic markers and offers a way of militating against the risk of unethical and destructive CEO behaviours induced or aggravated by hubristic leadership.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Spoken utterances for Donald Trump were from year 2014, whilst he was still CEO.

  2. 2.

    Words contained in texts that are read and analysed by LIWC are called target words.

  3. 3.

    NB: If the ratio of results is equal (i.e. HCEO/NHCEO = 1), such result is treated as ‘Yes’.

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Akstinaite, V., Robinson, G. & Sadler-Smith, E. Linguistic Markers of CEO Hubris. J Bus Ethics 167, 687–705 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04183-y

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Keywords

  • CEOs
  • Computational linguistics
  • Ethical leadership
  • Hubris
  • Hubris syndrome
  • Language
  • Leadership
  • Linguistic markers