The Detroit CEOs are hardly alone in suffering the kind of hubris that led them to take private jets to beg money from Congress, says Jeffrey Pfeffer. When executives become powerful, a distance develops between them and people with less influence, he says. They lose an essential leadership skill -- the ability to see from another point of view. "The few leaders who 'get it' tend to preside over more effective organizations," he says. "The rest cruise along until their arrogance and insensitivity catches up with them."

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