Management lecturer Dr Vita Akstinaite has a passion for the research of hubristic leadership and how it can negatively impact a business reputationally and financially.
For over 10 years, Dr Akstinaite worked in project and programme management in London prior to moving into academia. She has delivered numerous projects for companies listed in FTSE100 and Fortune500, including Page-Group, McKinsey Consulting and Whitbread. Her career was predominately spent in the IT industry working on large-scale business intelligence projects.
As part of these roles, Dr Akstinaite witnessed how hubristic leaders could destroy the morale of an organisation. In simpler terms, hubristic leaders or people are self-absorbed with huge egos who think they know everything best. They overestimate their own abilities and ambitions which can cause catastrophic consequences for themselves, others, their organisations and in serious cases, society. Some examples include employee dissatisfaction resulting in employees leaving organisations, or the company going bankrupt.
Dr Akstinaite has personally faced hubris in the industry and was interested in what psychologically underpins these behaviours and why people succumb to hubris.
“I could identify that these traits stemmed from managers making strategic decisions based on their own opinion and prior success, rather than evaluating current circumstances, contexts and facts.”
When an opportunity came to do a PhD, Dr Akstinaite knew that this was the topic she wanted to research further.
“I was interested in the recognition and prevention of hubris – recognising that someone was developing hubris and how I could prevent the potential negative consequences of it.”
Research in hubristic leadership
Dr Akstinaite’s main research focus is hubristic leadership and explains that hubristic leaders are powerful and successful individuals who become excessively confident and ambitious in their strategic decision choices.
The main trigger of hubris is intoxication of power. Qualities such as over-confidence, pride, contempt, advice or criticisms from others, arrogance and exaggerated self-belief are destructive in leadership and should be avoided.
“Hubristic leaders often believe that ‘they know it best’ and therefore they don’t need to consult with or listen to others.”
In 2015, Dr Akstinaite and her colleagues at the University of Surrey, UK, co-founded The Hubris Hub, a social initiative that focused on helping businesses to understand the dark side of leadership and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration.
Since the inception of this project, it has produced two PhD research projects, two books on hubristic leadership, many academic and non-academic articles, two symposiums for business leaders and a number of presentations.
Life as an academic at Murdoch
With an abundance of experience in leadership and years of study and working around the world, Dr Akstinaite now teaches as a lecturer in management at the Murdoch Business School and is the Academic Chair for the Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics. She is also a College Board Member, elected to represent academics at the College Board for Arts, Law, Business and Social Sciences College.
“The latter role allows me to be deeply involved in the development of quality research and teaching practices at the College.”
Some of Dr Akstinaite’s latest projects include leading Willetton Senior High School and Murdoch’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation programme for Year 10 students, and developing a new course to help with project management.
Since coming to Murdoch, Dr Akstinaite has implemented challenge-based learning in several units. These units include the use of animated videos for lecture materials, virtual ‘flipped classrooms’ and a variety of digital technologies to engage students.
Murdoch Business School is a fantastic place to learn if you want to have a career in management and there’s lots of flexibility in the curriculum and the courses here are ‘hands-on’ to help you learn things you will actually need in the job market.
Dr Akstinaite’s top five tips for students to make the most of their university experience
- Learn to solve problems instead of memorising information.
- Get out of your comfort zone by trying something new, meeting different people or going to unseen places.
- Don’t worry about small things. I still remember being upset about my maths mark in the first year of my undergraduate degree. Your character and experiences are what’s important.
- Start working today. If you want to be a manager or a leader one day, there are small steps that you could take to get exposure including study, networking and events.
- Choose what you want and go for it.