La hubris manageriale quale fonte della irresponsabilità d’impresa: uno studio esplorativo (The managerial hubris as a source of corporate irresponsibility: an exploratory study)

  • Giovanni Battista Dagnino
  • Anna Minà
  • Pasquale Massimo Picone
Keywords: hubris, overconfidence, corporate social irresponsibility, fraud


Purpose of the paper: The large number of scandals which have rocked the corporate world since the end of the twentieth century have fueled a considerable body of research regarding the factors which drive firms to adopt socially irresponsible behaviors and the development of mechanisms which may prevent the recurring occurrence of such episodes. We explore thoroughly the relationship between managerial hubris and corporate social irresponsibility.

Methodology: Empirical evidences from the in-depth qualitative longitudinal scrutiny of a specifically intriguing case; i.e., the Parmalat case under the four decade leadership of its founder Calisto Tanzi (1961-2003). Our case-based narrative approach follows the scientific criteria of theoretical sampling justification and multiple sources of evidence in order triangulate sources of data and facts.

Findings: Common wisdom argues that corporate governance weaknesses and ethical problems are the key antecedents of firm fraudulent cases. This article offers an alternative insight: managerial hubris may reveal one of the key determinants underlying the emergence of corporate social irresponsibility.

Research limits: Necessity of extending the investigation to a more comprehensive ammount of business cases to elaborate a base with which to generate more generalizable propositions.

Practical implications: Necessity to overcome the “silo view” of strategic decision making processes by involving experts in firm decision making processes different from the ones already present in the Board of Directors; to acknowledge that the formula of past successes is all but an unconstrained one since it does not usually work in future times.

Originality of the paper: We contribute to strategy and organization studies by applying a general concept, such as the hubris hypothesis, to a specific context, such as corporate social irresponsibility. In addition, transcending mere factual information, the study of Parmalat corporate social irresponsibility can help executives to discover the reasons why they select irrational strategies and why they do not usually work. Likewise, through the analysis of the Parmalat case, executives may acquire awareness about hubris dangers so as to avoid it in the future.


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